Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Three More Tapes

Well, these are good, aren't they?

Both of the first two lists were inspired by  what I consider Simon and Garfunkel's two finest songs - listening to Simon and Garfunkel in New York (whither we travelled by plane, naturally inspiring the third list).

Songs about Musicians.

I love The Only Living Boy in New York so much. There's much ill-informed conjecture about the dissenting relationship between Simon and Garfunkel - just listen to this song, who cares about the rest? This and So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright, but this in particular. Songs as they were splitting up, but so sweet and heartwarming.
These are nearly all pretty  fabulous, these songs. Writing about their peers brings out the best in songwriters.

The Only Living Boy in New York - Simon and Garfunkel
Cast No Shadow - Oasis
Diamonds and Rust - Joan Baez
Boulder to Birmingham - Emmylou Harris
American Pie - Don McLean
Mr Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan
A Case of You - Joni Mitchell
Hey Lover - Blake Mills
Chuck E's in Love - Rickie Lee Jones

Chelsea Hotel No 2 - Leonard Cohen
William It Was Really Nothing  - The Smiths
Nobody Loved You - Manic Street Preachers
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes: Crosby Stills and Nash
Killing Me Softly With His Song - Roberta Flack
Master Blaster - Stevie Wonder
The Boy With the Arab Strap - Belle and Sebastian
It Just Is - Rilo Kiley
Eternal Flame - Joan as Policewoman

Songs about searching for America

America - Simon and Garfunkel
Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
Look Inside America - Blur
Me and Bobby McGee - Janis Joplin
Thunder Road  - Bruce Springsteen
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Bob Dylan
Idaho - Nerina Pallot
Waitress Song - First Aid Kit

To Ohio - The Low Anthem
Horse With No Name - America
Going to a Town - Rufus Wainwright
Return of the Grievous Angel - Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
Bandits - Midlake
The Hudson Line - Mercury Rev
On the Road Again - Willie Nelson
Rattlesnake - St Vincent

Songs about Planes

Daniel - Elton John
Leaving on a Jet Plane - John Denver
This Flight Tonight - Joni Mitchell
Lucky - Radiohead
The Take Off and Landing of Anything - Elbow
Plane Crash in C - Rilo Kiley
Fire and Rain - James Taylor
Back in the USSR - The Beatles

Come Fly With Me - Frank Sinatra
Winterlight - Clearlake
Mighty Wings - Kenny Loggins
Flight Attendant - Josh Rouse
I'm a Pilot - Fanfarlo
Jetsetter - Ed Harcourt
Jet Lag - Brendan Benson
Paper Planes - MIA

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Background Noises

I've got a fair few things to run through, it might be a little unstructured and unfocused but so be it. There may be a few links and ideas within, we'll see.

I'm going to write about the four gigs I've been to since the last gig I wrote about, which was the Super Furry Animals, supported by the Magic Numbers, in May. That was amazing - the best comeback gig by the band I consider the best in the world. I couldn't top that, but everything since has contained considerable highs and also considerable food for thought.

So, first, on 3rd June, I saw the Replacements supported by You Am I at the Roundhouse.
Next, on 20th June, it was Blur at Hyde Park supported by many different acts.
Then, bit rogue this, 17th July at the Marlowe Studio, Canterbury, it was From the Jam supported by The Parkas. More on that later.
And finally, this Tuesday 8th September, it was My Morning Jacket supported by Dawes at Shepherds Bush Empire.

I don't really know where to begin. I'll begin with the supports. Support bands are a fascinating aspect of the whole gig culture, aren't they - thankless or career-changing, complementary or clashing.

First of all, the Magic Numbers were super, just as you'd expect really, a quality band a bit past their commercial prime reminding you that they're rather good and have some nice tunes, putting you in the right kind of mood for the main event.

In a sense, You Am I were the same deal, but because they're relatively unknown in the UK (they're big in Australia), there was probably more at stake for them. They were pretty electric, and you truly believed that the Replacements had inspired this collection of scuzzy tuneful skinny punks and changed their lives. It was a perfect support act, only falling down by almost outshining the main act.

Blur at Hyde Park was, support-wise, a a disappointment, both when I found out the line-up and in reality. When we saw Blur in 2009, there was Florence and the Machine and Vampire Weekend amongst others - definite added value. This time, though there were multiple stages and a festival feel, the only act I was enthused by was Roots Manuva and he was on a different stage to Blur, just before them, so in order to be in a good spot for their spot, I could only watch half his set. On the main stage, the biggest supporting names were Drenge, The Horrors and Metronomy - three perfect examples of the range of sounds within the category "Modern British bands which I can't stand to listen to". I had no interest and didn't feel any strong connection with Blur either. Metronomy's tinny doggerel floated away weakly on the breeze.

Blur were ace, of course, though in Hyde Park the ground doesn't shake like you'd wish it would. Their new album is a real winner, bonus treats were Badhead and He Thought of Cars, Albarn is an odd and powerful machine.

Anyway, legacy is what I want to talk about. I didn't feel Drenge, the Horrors and Metronomy were part of Blur's legacy, perhaps I'm wrong. Those acts didn't make sense to me, they were just acts on the bill, not part of the Blur experience.

Now, the next gig is all about legacy. Let me first explain how I came to be watching From the Jam eg Bruce Foxton from the Jam and some other dude filling in for Paul Weller. We bought tickets to see Stewart Lee at the Marlowe, couldn't go because it was the day we moved house, so were able to transfer and the only thing that fitted in date-wise was this slightly odd concoction. A certain sense of embarrassment and trepidation to be seeing this half-version of a band which will never actually get back together again.

I saw Paul Weller on TV on Glastonbury and thought, hmm, maybe that's more like what I should be doing.  By quirk of fate, I've never seen Weller, and I'll never see The Jam, of course. Considering his place in my musical life, that's amiss. I've become less ambivalent about him in recent years, now his run of dodgy late 90s albums is behind him and he's escaped that odd word "dadrock" with his considerable experimental streak. I mean, he makes pretty fucking odd records these days. Good for him.

There was a 2 hour documentary about The Jam on TV last week, too, with contributions from all the main players and innumerable Jam fans including the likes of Paul Abbott and Martin Freeman, who probably made the most sense about the importance of The Jam and what it was to be a mod.

I've never been a mod, never could have been really, I'm too messy, I eat too much, and my head's too big. I probably should have tried, considering I became such a Jam devotee as a teenager. Funnily enough, it makes more sense to me now - though I could never go for the look (though my Fred Perry collection increases) in terms of breaking it down to "seeking out and loving stuff that's new and cool, having rules and standards for your taste" I suppose my approach to music etc is not that far away.

And as Freeman said, the Jam, ok, they never broke America and they were never for everyone, but if you look around the streets of Britain, their influence is clear to see. Working-class men  in their Fred Perrys, those haircuts, the scooters etc, the Jam are at the very heart of that, even 40 years on, more so, I think than the Who and the Small Faces.

And, of course, they had great, great songs. I'll never not think that. Such unusual, unique songs like Down in the Tube Station and Eton Rifles, Precious and Funeral Pyre. Well, I got to hear a lot of those songs, in a room full of working-class men with feathercuts and Fred Perrys, and it was odd, but it was the real dude doing those real bass lines, albeit not quite the right singer.

And the support was interesting, mod teenagers with twee lyrics and nice harmonies, born out of time really. The Parkas, they were called, of course. I'm sure there have been many many more young mod bands called The Parkas. I wouldn't necessarily expect to hear from them again, but you never know.

There was a certain similarity to the support for My Morning Jacket, a California band called Dawes. A clean, derivative band with a pair of harmonising brothers, not very near the idea of modern cool. I love Dawes, funnily enough. I long ago answered the "Awful or Awesome" question with them - their songs are lush, their musicianship is something to behold. Mike, who I was with, was a doubter but was quite close to being sold by the end.

My Morning Jacket are a much heavier, much weirder trip, of course, but they were both part of the same circle, that's the great thing ... that's the bit I'm trying, unsuccessfully, to tie together in this whole blog. The Replacements, Blur, The Jam, those are massive bands in the history of rock'n'roll who stand with a lineage and a legacy which those gigs fulfilled with varying degrees of success.

With My Morning Jacket, it's a different matter, they're not, as such, at the top of the triangle, they and Dawes are not far from being on the same level, and there are many superficial differences. The guest at the show, for both bands, was the much-maligned Mumford of his Sons. Because all three frontmen, Marcus Mumford, Jim James of MMJ and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes were brought together for 'Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes', along with Elvis Costello and Rhiannon Giddens, to collaborate on bringing unreleased Bob Dylan lyrics to life. Cool project, and a really nice album, actually.

My Morning Jacket are the furthest realm of the Bob Dylan triangle, a psychedelic heavy-rock band in some ways but truly an Americana band - Jim James seems to collaborate with everyone - he was in Monsters of Folk with Conor Oberst and M Ward,amongst many others. He went on tour with Dylan himself along with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Richard Thompson, a tour called Americanarama. If you start making links between all these modern American artists, it's rather fabulous - Tweedy, in particular, is one who's at the heart of so much, enabling so many others, setting up a festival, producing Mavis Staples, Bill Fay, Richard Thompson.

What do we call all this? Folk music? Real and true living folk music, still changing, bringing together every strand from different strands and different countries? Maybe, not quite, I don't know.

The music I'm into gives me a warm glow sometimes, though, when I feel that just by liking it, buying it, seeing it, I'm part of something, part of something with meaning, that's not for everyone, that can't be for everyone, but is special for those it is for.