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Archive for the ‘London England’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE SHADOWS-“Apache” (1960).

In 1960, Cliff Richard’s backing band released this instrumental that shot to the top of the British charts.  The song was named after the 1954 film Apache.

The band had a signature sound.  Hank Marvin used an echo box and a tremolo bar on his Fender guitar.  The melodic bass was by Jet Harris.  Percussion was by Tony Meehan and Cliff Richard, who played a Chinese drum at the beginning and end to provide an atmosphere of stereotypically Native American music.

It has been cited by a generation of guitarists as inspirational and is considered one of the most influential British rock 45s of the pre-Beatles era because of the appeal of “that kind of Hawaiian sounding lead guitar … plus the beat.”

The song is really catchy with a surf guitar/Western riff and the rumbling drums.  There’s a few parts which create some drama and forward motion.

[READ: June 29, 2021] Beeswing

I’ve been a fan of Richard Thompson since about 1993.  I’ve seen him live about ten times and I’ve listened to most of his earlier work (including most of his Fairport Convention stuff).

I don’t love all the Fairport material.  I likesome of it, but I never really got into it that much.  And, I never really thought about what it was like being in Fairport back in the late 60s.  So this autobiography was a strange thing for me.  Seemed like an obvious read and yet it’s about an era that I didn’t have a lot of interest in.

Which proved to be the perfect combination.

Richard starts the book in the early 1960s. I was a little concerned because I really didn’t like the opening page–the style concerned me.  But the idea that dust and fog were so pervasive in London that it cast a haze over everything was pretty interesting.  Especially when he says that explains the state of London artistry–soft and fuzzy because of the haze.

Then he moves on to himself.  His family was pretty traditional–his father was a policeman.  He was not interested in school and a normal career. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJOSEF K-“Sorry for Laughing” (1985).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

Josef K were a Scottish band named after the main character in Franz Kafka’s The Trial.  I had never heard of them, but they are apparently hugely influential (despite releasing only one record).

Josef K are quite unlike anyone else on the mix tape thus far.  They are far darker (in a Joy Division sort of way).  I mean look what they based their name on.  And there are drums. But they are also very un-rock–playing sharp angular guitars and lead bass lines.

“Sorry for Laughing” opens with a  snapping drum and a rumbling, almost out of control bass line.  The guitars are quieter, playing sharp chords. It’s catchy in a dark sort of way.  The weirdest part comes at the end of the bridge when the bass seems to play a tiny riff that doesn’t quite work–it’s almost an anti-hook and it happens twice.

The middle of the song has a kind of bass solo while the vocals make a chk chk sound. This must have been an incredibly unique song at the time.  And you can definitely hear how a lot of bands were influenced by them.

[READ: January 20, 2021] “Bohemia”

This story, set in the 1950s, is about Willie, a young Indian man traveling to London for the first time.

He is going to London for school–an un-famous school it turns out–modeled after Oxford and Cambridge.

Willie didn’t know much about London–Buckingham Palace and Speaker’s Corner were the extent of it.  He was disappointed by both when he saw them.  He felt the Maharaja’s palace was far superior, and the people in Speakers Corner were mostly irritating.

His father had given him the names of people to get in touch with.  Willie didn’t want to do that–he wanted to succeed on his own.  But he found things very tough going.  So he looked up one of the men–a newspaper reporter.  The man was very proud of his work and very proud of his paper  But Willie knew nothing of the paper or even enough of London to know what the paper wrote about.  It was not an auspicious meeting. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DECLAN McCKENNA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #79 (September 14, 2020).

I really only know Declan McKenna from his Tiny Desk Concert.  (His song “Brazil” was a hit, although I’d never heard it anywhere else).

At that Tiny Desk he was solo, but here he’s got a band, and they sound great.

Declan McKenna and his band rock their Tiny Desk (home) concert. Their “home,” in this case, is The Foundry, a neighboring studio in North London. Declan is decked out with glitter, channeling a more flamboyant side of rock than I’ve seen from him before. He’s still immersed in complex storytelling with characters on the fringes, alienated for reasons of class and politics.

It’s hard to believe he was a teenager when he released his first album–although he does sound older now for sure.  He’s got a new album out.

Three of the songs are from Zeros, his brand new album recorded in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce. It’s been a wild three-year ride since the release of his teenage smash debut What Do You Think About the Car? He’s now 21.

Opening the set with “Daniel, You’re Still a Child” McKenna sits at the keybaord playing the piano-sounding chords.  There’s a deep bass sound from William Bishop anchoring the song which has a surprisingly 70s sounding synth riff from Nathan Cox.  There’s some excellent guitar riffing and soloing from Isabel Torres (including a scratching wah wah section).  I enjoyed that there’s a pause after the line “outside the shop that sells your favorite drink” and drummer Gabrielle Marie King hits a drum pad that sounds like a beer can opening.  King also plays some really great fills all the way throughout.

A nifty bass line (including an unexpected harmonic note) opens “The Key to Life on Earth.”  Declan plays guitar on this one including a suitably fuzzed out guitar solo.  Although I think Torres is a better guitar player, he does get a cool sound from his instrument.  The song is catchy but especially so as it ends.

For “Beautiful Faces” Torres plays a raw a slide guitar riff that follows the vocal line. Once again, he uses some falsetto in the synthy chorus to throw in a little hook.  Declan plays a ripping fuzzy guitar solo.

For the end, Declan performs his best-known song, “Brazil,” a tune steeped in politics and sports, and the enthusiasm has him atop a tiny desk in the end.

“Brazil” has a catchy guitar riff followed but a catch bass riff. And even though I’ve only heard the song here, I still can’t get it out of my head.  (Even if I can’t exactly figure out what it’s about–grizzly bears, football, Brazil).  McKenna gets another ripping solo–but I’d like to have heard more from Torres.

McKenna is an interesting character and I like his song more each time I hear them.

[READ: September 14, 2020] Our Times in Rhymes

This is a short book in which Sam Leith (who I don’t know anything about) summarizes 2019 in verse.

Leith summarizes the major news each month.  Leith is British so most of the news he talks about is British (especially Brexit), but he does have plenty of stanzas devoted to the person occupying the White House.

It’s interesting reading this near the end of 2020, which has been such an incredible shitshow.  It’s hard to believe we cared about dumb things that happened then.  But it’s also hard to believe that tRUMP is still an asshole, that Boris Johnson is even more of a liar than it seemed, that Brexit hasn’t been finalized yet, and that anybody in either country actually supports either of these bozos.  What the hell is wrong with people? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LANG LANG-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #11 (April 17, 2020).

Lang Lang is a superstar pianist whom I have never heard of.  But I agree with the blurb that it’s neat to see a fantastic pianist playing at home.  He seems relaxed and loose.  And the camera angle allows us to see his fingers (and his whole swaying body) pretty clearly.

Here’s something unique: a chance to eavesdrop on the superstar pianist Lang Lang at home.

The 37-year-old pianist, who typically plays sold-out shows to thousands, says he’s taking his recent solitary time to learn new repertoire at home in Shanghai, China. And home is where he thinks we should all be.

He opens with Chopin’s calming “Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp minor.”  I loved watching him slowly and deliberately play that last note.  It seems like he holds his finger above it for minutes, but it fits in perfectly.

Lang Lang’s latest passion is Bach – specifically the Goldberg Variations, a 75-minute-long cycle of immense complexity grounded in the composer’s durable beauty. Lang Lang offers the “18th and 19th variations,” pieces that in turn represent the strength of logic and the joy of the dance. It’s music, Lang Lang says, that “always brings me to play in another level of artistic thinking.”

These pieces are just magical.  Even if I don;t know them well, I can tell pretty immediately that they are Bach.  Lang Lang’s fluidity is wonderful, as is the way his whole body seems to be absorbing the music as he plays.

[READ: April 11, 2020]: Carnet de Voyage

From March 5 thru May 14, 2004 Craig Thompson was on an international book tour celebrating the success of his (fantastic) book Blankets.

This journal was his visual diary (no cameras were used, only his memory) of his trip.  His editors thought it would be interesting for him to document his trip (and it is).

He flies into Paris then a 2 hour plane trip to Lyon.  He draws pictures of where he has been and the people he has met (and some of their fascinating stories).  There’s some wonderful sketches of rooftops from hotel windows.

He does interviews for radio and magazines. He laughs that one of the photos shoots was in the streets of Paris, where he is all dressed up.  But really he’s a county bumpkin from Wisconsin. The drawing of himself as a glamorous guy and his bumpkin alter ego together is pretty hilarious.

On March 15 he left for Marrakesh, Morocco and this exotic location rally sets the stage for most of his artwork and what is sort of the only “plot” in the book.

He had also just broken up with his girlfriend which weighs on his mind quite a lot on the tour. (more…)

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