Wednesday, August 15, 2018

NPR TINY CONCERTS: BOB BOILEN and ALL SONGS CONSIDERED

Bob Boilen, co-creator of Tiny Concerts. He
was once in a band called Tiny Desk Unit
The main reason I've started making music again after a lengthy gap of maybe 18 months or more was watching NPR Tiny Concerts on YouTube.

Started in 2008, by November 2016, the series included more than 550 concerts, viewed a collective 80 million times on YouTube. 

The full story about the origins of Tiny Concerts and Bob Boilen himself can be found here at Vox.com

The series features bands of all shapes and sizes, playing all kinds of music from a wide geographic spread. 

They continue to stun me and entrance me. I watch  and rewatch my favourites. Here are some artists who  I consider a bit special for a variety of reasons. 

They are called Tiny Concerts because there is very little room for the band. Bigger bands are shoehorned into a space between bookshelves and counter, all covered with objects of all kinds. Each set-up uses the available space cleverly.They're shot in the NPR building during the lunchtime break. Each set lasts for about 20-25 minutes max - time for three or four numbers generally.

What makes it so good is their taste in music and their openness to new music. They are particularly well filmed, edited and recorded. These Tiny Concerts pack a punch. They come highly recommended. You'll be hooked.



Ani Di Franco
Lake Street Drive
Margaret Glasby
Phox
Lo Moon
Lalah Hathaway
The Crossrhodes
The Midnight Hour
Tom Misch
Chick Corea and Garry Burton

INTIMATE VIDEO PERFORMANCES, RECORDED LIVE AT THE DESK OF ALL SONGS CONSIDERED HOST BOB BOILEN.





Tuesday, August 14, 2018

ROCK KING JIMMY PAGE by CHRIS SALEWICZ

Having already got acclaimed biographies of Bob Marley and Joe Strummer under his belt, Chris Salewicz (a mate of mine from the NME of the 1970s) tackles the mystery that is the enigmatic Jimmy Page, creator of Led Zeppelin, around whom swirls a cloud of rumours. The task cannot have been easy. 
Firstly there is a heap of books about the Zeps including Page's 'photographic biography'. The best known is 'Hammer of the Gods' written by Stephen Davis - a prolific rock biographer in his own right - which was based partly on his experiences on tour with the band for two weeks in 1975 but mainly on  the salacious recollections of Zeps' road manger Richard Cole, which the band have dismissed as utter tosh. More substantial is 'Trampled Under Foot' an extensive oral biography by music journalist Barney Hopkins, which The Generalist reviewed at length when it was published in 2012. This post also contains my own small personal recollections of the band and can be found here.

Chris has interviewed Page in the past and includes two of these pieces in the book, but didn't do so for this unauthorised bio. He brings something new to the party methinks in a number of ways. The whole 500-page epic has a insightful narrative arc presented in a sophisticated manner by someone who is extremely knowledgeable and able to extract previously unrecorded stories. Strikingly, he quickly tunes in to the astrological/magical seam that runs through the band and the music because he understands the importance of that and where it was coming from. 

Jimmy Page (born in 1944) discovered Aleister Crowley when he was 15, as did many others of that generation at a time when the occult and the sacred were being revisited. Salewicz suggests that Page was one of a very few who took Crowley to heart and used his vision and concepts to create something astonishing. Page also lived in a house where Crowley had lived and became one of the top collectors of his work and that of the occult artist Austin Osman Spare. He also loves the PreRaphaelites and currently lives in an extraordinary gothic revival Tower House in Kensington, London, a Victorian castle designed by the architect William Burges. [Robert Plant brought his own spiritual dimension to the band with his deep affection for the landscape of the Welsh hills, folk music, Tolkein, Viking culture and the music of Morocco.]

Original ticket for the London premiere of 'The Song Remains The Same'
[The Generalist Archive]
This a book about Jimmy Page rather than Led Zeppelin but LZ in all its aspects was created by Jimmy Page almost as an art project. He was certainly the architect. He assembled the group - an experienced multi-instrumentalist session player and two lads from Birmingham - Plantie, the inexperienced wailer with curls and Bonham, the drummer from Hell. By playing together, the four of them - whose identity was later to be condensed into four magic icons - produced an alchemical reaction that created a fifth dimension - the loudest, most powerful, thundering Visigoth band the world had seen. Driven by Page - a slim immaculate figure, especially in his velvet dragon suit, wearing his double-necked guitar, with cascading locks and androgonous features, playing with unearthly dexterity, exuding an odour of mystique. Not since Paganini, who played the fiddle like the devil... Page was scary but strangely alluring.

The explosive dark power of  the Zeps cauterised major stadiums and blazed a trail across America before capturing the rest of the world. The clichĂ© is that the same dark power destroyed the band. Common sense would quickly suggest that the LZ space plane was bound to implode given their velocity and the industrial amount of white powders that increasingly interfered with the making of the music. It is clear Plant was severely out of it for a long stretch, barely functioning. Now at the age of 73, he gives speeches at the Oxford Union, has been awarded an OBE and has completed a massive remastering of all Led Zeps work.

Chris takes us through the early years: discovering a guitar by chance, appearing on a BBC tv talent show with his skiffle band aged 13, leaving school at 15 when he went on tour for two years with the Crusaders before then going to art college. From early 1963 he was picked up and became the youngest top session guitarist on the scene - he was Lil' Jim Pea to the other top player Big Jim Sullivan.

Jimmy was totally devoted to understanding every aspect of guitar work and studio practice, as was the young John Paul Jones, also working as a session player on the circuit. By the time he formed Led Zeppelin, Jimmy had played so many sessions on so many hit records, a lot of which he wrote the B-sides for, that he'd earned his first million. This enabled him to pay for the recording of their first album even before they went to any record company.

Pre Led Zep he had also gained  touring experience in the US with The Yardbirds - a band which also featured Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. The three of them lived within a 10-mile radius of each other. [The band's first guitarist was Top Topham who The Generalist interviewed in 2012 ]


Chris takes us on the Zeps' wild ride and the after-show shenanigans which regularly got out of hand. These are delicate matters  but it seems that the damage and sleaze was driven by Bonham and Cole with Page and Plant dipping in and out of the chaos. Page's answer to the pressure turned into a problem with drugs. Not unknown in the music business or any other part of the entertainment field. The book does not avoid talking about the bad taste salaciousness of those wild times but neither does it lay down a heavy judgment call. Many girls involved have their say.

The post-Zep period is by its nature anti-climatic but Plant and Page had major success in the 1990s with the Unledded MTV show and further acclaim came with the one-off 2007 Led Zep reunion. it was fascinating to read of Page and Plant's epic world tour with Moroccan musicians and a Western orchestra. They now have a more equal relationship it seems, particularly since Plant's Grammy award with Alison Krauss.

Chris concludes that: 'Page has emerged as the most revered and respected of all classic rock artists. Despite all the odds, Jimmy Page has become the greatest treasure of British popular music.' His book, a fresh and valuable addition to the existing literature, is now top of the heap.

[Good interview with Chris Salewicz  by Robert Elms on Radio London well worth a listen]

Jimmy Page | Full Address and Q&A at The Oxford Union
Interestingly, 35 minutes in a girl asks him about his involvement with the Golden Dawn. He shuts the subject down quite quickly.

Incidentally it's the 50th anniversary of the first Led Zeppelin rehearsal this month.





Friday, August 03, 2018

THE BEAT SCENE: PHOTOS BY BURT GLINN + FERLINGHETTI TRAVEL JOURNALS + NAKED LUNCH RESTORED + THE BEAT MUSEUM

Published by Reel Art Press
This is the real deal - a cache of unknown pictures by Burt Glinn [1925-2008], a top Magnum photographer which had remained untouched for 50 years - of the Beat scene on the East and West coast of  America in the period 1957-1960.

More than half the negatives are in colour  - the first ever colour photos of The Beats of Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg and his lover Peter Orlowsky.

Jack paddles around making faces, wearing a beret and a long raincoat, Allen and Peter sit on a bench in Washington Square with their publisher Barney Rossett of Grove Press, Corso poses on window ledges and, in one dramatic set of b&ws in a club, he is being restrained from getting into a fight. Ferlinghetti stares straight into the lens, can of beer in his hand, framed by the bookshelves of City Lights with Shig, the shop manager

But there is much more than the poets themselves. The first set entitled 'upper and lower bohemians 1957' shows an upscale party with the ub's chatting and surrounded by modern art followed by portraits of artists in their studio, ub's at exhibition galleries and great pictures of Merce Cunningham and his top dancer Anita Huffington. The stunner for me is de Kooning 's studio with Larry Rivers. Brilliant. Cut to a jazz club where ub's and lb's crossover.

Gregory Corso [detail]
'east coast beats 1959' is a wonderful selection of shots, beginnig with the entrance stairway to the Seven Arts Coffee Gallery which hosts night-reading poets from 2am every Friday.  We see Ted Joans reading at the Bizarre coffee shop in Greenwich Village, Leroi Jones with his baby, and other photogenic beats posing against the evening sky on New York balconies. Cut to a "Rent A Beatnik" party where the young, stoned and beautiful drink, and a jazz club called the Half Note followed by a show at the March Gallery and hipsters hanging out at the Cock-n-Bull.         

west coast beats 1960 follows similar tracks, mixing b&w and colour, travelling across the city from location to location, wild parties in lofts, cellars and clubs. Two jazzmen play chess against a startling yellow and orange curtain. Dancers get into the groove at the Fox and Hound, We see artist's apartments and studios, musicians jamming in a studio with an eccentric collection of instruments. Buddhist Alan Watts laughs in front of a giant amplifying horn.

Three essays open the book, beginning with 'burt glinn 1959'  by Sarah Stacke, a photojournalist who was enlisted by Glinn to help digitise his huge photo collection. She writes:
'Eudora Welty said that photographers  must "be sensitive to the speed not simply of the camera's shutter, but of the moment in time."  The social movements as well as the gestures and peculiarities of individuals to which  Burt paid attention, speak to this quality. Burt's images of the Beats, almost always made at night, arrange arms in motion, burning cigarettes, berets. typed pages and earnest conversations inside the frame. The compositions render the culture of the nonconformity and spontaneous expressionism embraced by the Beats.' 
Jack Kerouac and Barbara Ferrera [detail]
Next comes 'burt and the beats' by Michael Shulman who was working with Tony Nourmand, the publisher of this book, on a Glinn retrospective when they discovered this cache of colour shots.

Glinn by Shulmnan's account and others was an incredibly accomplished photographer who covered a wide range of reportage from Hollywood celebrities to Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Shulman says that Glinn's core talent was 'his unerring way of getting inside the emotional truth of the situation'  You can see a lovely selection of Glinn's work on his own website: www.burtglinn.com

Also included is an essay by Jack Kerouac originally written for Holiday magazine entitled 'and this is the beat nightlife of new york' - his own guide to the beat underworld of the time.


This excellent book, well-designed with nice-smelling paper, is a really valuable addition to The Generalist's Beat library and comes highly recommended. It's a window into an undocumented world. You can almost smell the atmosphere, hear the jazz and the bongoes. We're digging these Beats man!

The publishers Reel Art Press [RAP] are new to me. They're producing tasty and sylish visual treats so check them out here: www.reelartpress.com

*

FERLINGHETTI TRAVEL JOURNALS

Published by W.W. Norton. 2015

This marvelous volume I found in Bow Windows bookshop in Lewes, my go-to-place for random discoveries.

'Writing Across The Landscape' is composed of extracts from Ferlinghetti's travel journals, 'the fruits of over five decades of travel.' from 1960-2010. What a remarkable man he is [See: 'Ferlinghetti Speaks Out at 99. His voice as vital as ever' (San Francisco Chronicle/ 21 March 2018)]

A very few extracts have been previously published but most were typed up from the handwritten journals Mr F had given to the Bancroft Library at the University of California and had never looked at them since. He collaborated with the editors on both selection and editing. The book includes many of his drawings.

The Editors Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson write: 'Together, these records of observations and experiences show that the poet's journeys around the world form one of the most crucial and rich sources of creative inspiration.'  

Interestingly, they claim 'though he is often identified with the writers of the Beat generation because he published them through City Lights, Lawrence has never considered himself a Beat. These notebooks testify to his connections to a wide international field of avant-garde literary ferment and poetry of dissent.'




It begins with the Normandy Invasion [he also saw Nagasaki in August 1945 after the bomb). In the 60s alone he went to Latin America, Cuba, France, North Africa, La Paz, Russia, Rome and numerous other destinations. He was in Paris in the summer of '68,

The book is a masterclas of both poetry and prose, imagination and observation, to be dipped into time and again. The book is fĂȘted
on the back with heartfelt puffs from, amongst others, Francis Ford Coppola and Patti Smith, who has this to say.
"Courageously beautiful, High spirited and sensual, Ferlinghetti's private jounal reads like an open letter to the reader. One can hear his distinctive voice. Our American poet and wanderer. As beloved as the land itself."


*

NAKED LUNCH RESTORED

This new restored text is considered closest to Burroughs' original wishes. The edition also contains many appendices regarding the birth of the project and various alternative texts. This edition is the Grove Press paperback first published in 2001. The Editor's Notes begin:

'Naked Lunch evolved slowly and unpredictably over nine tumultuous years in the life of its author, William Seward Burroughs. The novel was not created according to a predetermined outline or plan, but accumulated through a decade of travel and turmoil on four continents and continually edited and reedited not only by its author but also by his close friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. It went through innumerable partial and "final" drafts, mostly in Tangier, Morocco, and took its final shape only when Maurice Girodias told Burroughs in June 1959 that he needed a finished text within two weeks, for publication by his English-language Olympia Press in Paris. Thus, by its very nature, Naked Lunch resists the idea of a fixed text, and our re-creation of the history of its composition and editing has required a careful review of many disparate typescripts in various archival collections, as well as the two first editions in 1959 (Olypia Press) and 1962 (Grove Press) - the texts of which are quite different.'
*

THE BEAT MUSEUM


'The Beat Museum was founded by Jerry and Estelle Cimino in 2003, in Monterey, California. After meeting John Allen Cassady (son of Neal and Carolyn Cassady), John and Jerry developed a two-man show and took it on the road in an Airstream RV they dubbed the Beat Museum on Wheels (or the Beatmobile for short), sharing the story of the Beat Generation with young people from coast to coast. They arrived in North Beach in 2006, and a temporary Beat Museum opened in the Live Worms gallery on Grant Avenue. Following a brief move to The Cannery at Fisherman’s Wharf, we moved into our permanent home at 540 Broadway, across the street from City Lights Books.'













SEE PREVIOUS POSTS ON THE BEATS HERE: hqinfo.blogspot.com/2011/11/history-of-beats.html