Rock Island Line – Lonnie Donegan
Truth, Deception, & Lies (Aloe Blacc Remix)
Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) – Ben E. King
Don’t Play That Song – Aretha Franklin
I Got A Story To Tell
Rock Island Line – Leadbelly
Java Des Bombes Atomiques (Instrumental)
Thanks to the elves for putting this version of Leadbelly’s Rock Island Line, I had a different one, but I love the acapella (here’s another one that’s impossible to spell correctly) stuff.
NINA SIMONE, DIVA OUT OF CAROLINA
By ROBIN D. G. KELLEY
Published: February 25, 2010
Regular readers might remember a couple of pieces I posted here re. Nina last year, here’s another, it’s a review of a biography just published which echos some of the comments from last year’s pieces. Our UK Spillers might have missed it since it’s from the NY Times. The author is Robin Kelley, a good friend of my wife who’s recent book on Monk has received rave reviews.
The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone
By Nadine Cohodas
Illustrated. 449 pp. Pantheon Books. $30
Excerpt: ‘Princess Noire’ (February 19, 2010)
Dwight Garner’s Review of ‘Princess Noire’ (February 19, 2010)
If you want to read the exerpt and Dwight Garner’s review go to:
“I will never be your clown,” Nina Simone shouted at a restless nightclub audience in Cannes in 1977. The mostly French-speaking crowd was either unable or unwilling to join her in a singalong, and she took it as a personal affront. “God gave me this gift — and I am a genius. I worked at my craft for six to 14 hours a day, I studied and learned through practice. I am not here just to entertain you. But how can I be alive when you are so dead?” Her speech only prompted more requests for her to “SING!” She managed to get through some songs before delivering her parting words. “You owe me,” she railed. “I don’t wear a painted smile on my face, like Louis Armstrong.
Scenes like this were all too common, especially during the latter half of Simone’s career. Her reputation as mercurial, moody and combative was well established, and she did little to dispel this image in her memoir, “I Put a Spell on You.” She was nothing if not paradoxical. She promoted black militancy and spoke of her love for “my people,” but often treated black audiences with contempt and condescension. She beat up white audiences, too, sometimes declaring her disdain for white people, and yet sustained a substantial crossover following with covers of songs associated with their youth culture. She might show up an hour or two late, ramble incoherently onstage and suddenly give a performance that could bring a weary crowd to tears.
But when she called herself a genius — a term usually reserved for male artists — it was not mere hyperbole. Indeed, Nadine Cohodas’s disturbing portrait in “Princess Noire” sets out to confirm Simone’s genius. The author lingers on her stage performances, her musical decisions, her sartorial choices — the alchemy she created in sound and fury. Cohodas, who has written books about Dinah Washington and Chess Records, devotes more space to Simone’s music than any biography to date. But as hard as the author tries, she can’t avoid the fact that Si mone’s fame has more to do with her tempestuous behavior, both on- and offstage.
Before Nina Simone arrived, there was Eunice Waymon, born in Tryon, N.C., in 1933, the sixth of eight children. Her father, J. D. Waymon, was a jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur, and her mother, Kate, was a domestic worker whose primary vocation was preaching the Gospel. Eunice was just a small child when she started playing piano in church. Cohodas paints a complex picture of Tryon and its environs, a community ruled by Jim Crow but with a color line porous enough for the Waymons to live fairly comfortably and for young Eunice to take piano lessons from Muriel Mazzanovich, known affectionately as Miss Mazzy.
Eunice depended on a white patron to pay for her lessons, and she remained fairly sequestered in the quiet, cloistered world of Miss Mazzy’s home, studying Bach and dreaming of a different path. But the walls between Tryon’s polite society and the realities of racial subjugation were thin and vulnerable, occasionally tumbling down — as on the night her parents were asked to move out of the front row during one of her public recitals. Eleven-year-old Eunice threatened to refuse to play if her parents could not remain in their seats. Even then, she under stood her power as an artist.
Eunice continued her music studies at the Allen School, a private high school for black girls in Asheville, probably with the support of white benefactors. Upon graduation, she took classes at Juilliard and worked long hours to prepare for her audition to the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. She was rejected, her dream of becoming a concert pianist crushed. In Simone’s eyes, the school’s rebuff was a racial slight. While Cohodas quotes a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, who suggests Simone simply wasn’t up to the task, she is unwilling to admit that Si mone’s piano skills were less than brilliant. She may have been the greatest prodigy to come out of Tryon’s black community, but in New York City pianists of her caliber were plentiful.
Simone’s genius lay elsewhere, and it seems she discovered it quite by accident when she accepted a solo piano gig at an Atlantic City nightclub for the summer of 1954 and began singing when pressed by her boss. Adopting the name Nina Si mone, she used her deep, husky voice, wide-ranging knowledge of musical genres and eclectic tastes to push her performances to the foreground in clubs where cocktail piano was meant for atmosphere. And as Cohodas observes, Simone replaced the sexuality of a torch singer with the elegance of a concert pianist, evoking respectability and “race pride” along the way. After reaching the pop charts with her 1959 cover of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy,” she quickly became an international star. She gave audiences more than a concert; she presented an overall cultural experience, different from pop and jazz, so original that she belongs in a category unto herself.
Music made Simone a star; politics made her a force. She joined a small circle of New York-based intellectuals in support of the civil rights movement, speaking out against racism and injustice from her own platform, performing protest songs and writing a few of her own. Her “Mississippi Goddam,” written in the wake of Medgar Evers’s assassination and the murder of four black girls in a church bombing, became a veritable anthem. Although Si mone believed that her politics cost her jobs, by the late ’60s she had embraced her role as songstress of black militancy, composing “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” a powerful tribute to the memory of Lorraine Hansberry. Surprisingly, Cohodas devotes little space to understanding the source of Simone’s political views and her engagement with the likes of Hansberry, James Baldwin and Stokely Carmichael, or how the larger context of African liberation shaped her own vision.
After establishing Simone’s musical gen ius, international success and political prominence, Cohodas details her long downward spiral. To the author’s credit, she tries valiantly to keep our attention on the stage and Simone’s music, even when it is subpar, and even when Simone’s life becomes a litany of self-destructive acts and bitter disappointments. Yet while Coho das provides vivid descriptions of Simone’s behavior, she offers very little by way of explanation. How shy Eunice Waymon became a demanding diva almost overnight remains a mystery. Not until the last 50 pages do we learn that Simone probably suffered from schizophrenia. But was her anger a manifestation of an undiagnosed chemical imbalance, or did it reflect a life of failed marriages, failed affairs, failed motherhood, dislocations, financial woes, and a history of racial and sexual discrimination? Apparently, Simone also survived domestic violence and rape. (Her bisexuality, as well as the manner in which marriage suppressed it, deserves more than the few sentences it receives.)
During her final two decades (she died in 2003), as her illness progressed, financial considerations compelled Simone to work. She had to make money — for herself and her handlers, whose livelihoods depended on her — and her shows became exhibitions of her deteriorating life and mental health. Cohodas captures a piteous moment when, after a gig at Swing Plaza in New York in 1983, federal agents turned up to confiscate her earnings. But they didn’t touch the cash left out front in a bucket labeled “the Society for the Preser vation of Nina Simone.”
By the end of her “tumultuous reign,” Simone was a shadow of her former self, a woman practically broken by an unscrupulous industry, exploitative men and her own demons. Like her performances, the book’s final chapters are hard to experience but impossible to ignore. And like so many of us who saw Simone onstage when she should have been convalescing or simply enjoying life, readers may feel an urgent need to listen to her old recordings to remind themselves of what they loved about her in the first place.
Robin D. G. Kelley’s most recent book is “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.”
Bib Mama Thornton – Hound Dog
Jean Redpath – Riddles Wisely Expounded
Heptones – Hypocrite
Errol DUnkley – Please Stop Your Lying, Girl
The Inspirations – Take Back Your Duck
Yo La TEngo – The Lie and How We Told It
Billy Bragg – The Man in the Iron Mask
Odetta – Masters of War
The ROots – Masters of War
ATCQ – Butter
The Coup – Nowalaters
Dead Prez – Propaganda
Immortal Technique – Bin Laden (Tell the Truth)
Common – Testify
Pete Rock – Truth Is
Pete Rock and CL Smooth – Can’t Front On Me
KRS One – Stop Frontin
Gang Starr – Execution of a Chump
The Tate Modern’s highly enjoyable Pop Life exhibition last year brought together the work of some of the world’s most highly-acclaimed contemporary artists / most over-hyped chancers (delete according to preference) for a celebration of the fusing of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. Along with Warhol, Hirst, Koons, and musician-affiliated visual artists like Keith Haring, Pruitt Early and Christine Newby, was Japan’s Takashi Murakami – named by Time Magazine in 2008 as one of the most influential people in the world. Murakami is famed for his work’s immersion in otaku / geek culture – the gaudy, controversial, super-cute and occasionally troubling world Japan’s young people are increasingly sharing with the rest of us through fashion, manga, anime and, especially, computer games. His specially-commissioned piece saw Kirsten Dunst taking on a cosplay role in a fantasy remake of The Vapours’ Turning Japanese. It’s good fun, particularly for those of us who have been harbouring a crush on Dunst since Bring It On.
Times were hard, money was in short supply , hey what’s a Potatohead to do? The offer seemed good and me and me mate Coxy Pippin got the offer to record some quality choons which were guaranteed to top the charts. We were naive and got carried away by the hair extensions and shiny clothes but that’s showbizness for you…would you have done any different?
It’s not quite on the level of “Noone has the intention of building a wall”(in Berlin), but there was a porky involved…
1. Who are we?
2. Who produced / moulded us?
3. Sept 1989 saw our biggest hit – remember?
4. What was the big fib?
5. Choose an adjective to describe the fraudsters!
PS- Why can’t you download Youtube clips anymore?
“When it’s dark and I’m all alone and I’m scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, ‘What would Buffy do?’ You’re my hero. Ok, sometimes when it’s dark and I’m all alone I think, ‘What is Buffy wearing..?”
There are of course times when one wishes that life’s problems were as simple and straightforward as the university being a front for a sinister military-industrial complex conducting esoteric experiments on demons as a prelude to the apocalypse, as at least it would mean that someone had a plan… You don’t need to know all about my troubles, except to say that I’m afraid it means that I’m going to be around rather less for a while, and in an even worse mood than normal, so apologies in advance for any gratuitous ‘bukes. In such times, one clings to the few certainties in life, and one of them is that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a work of undeniable genius (at least as far as Series Five), brilliantly acted, and with a rather good soundtrack. While I console myself by working steadily through the entire oeuvre once again, I felt called upon to present this little celebration of some of its finest musical numbers…
Following on from Sourpus’s post about – err -posters, I dug out some old ticket stubs and flyers which might amuse some of you. Sorry the picture quality isn’t very good, they’re stuck in a scrapbook and I can’t get the light right. Anyway, it made for interesting reading (for me) – there’s all sorts of cr*p in the s(crap)book, including a temporary membership for the Dounreay Social Club and a return ticket from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington for £2.37!
It’s my birthday today and my brother gave me a Bellowhead CD, from which I was going to upload something, but I’m not sure if I like it very much so here is some nice soothing John Renbourn instead (Sidi Brahim) to get you in a nostalgic mood. If that doesn’t work, a large whiskey usually does the trick.
Happy Birthday to young Tessimmel too.
Kick yer boots off and set a spell on ole Uncle Tinnie’s porch. Drinks’ll be along in time, but we got nothing pressing so I’ll not be known for my promptness. If yer the sort needs to keep busy, next porch up’s got salsa dancing lessons at 6.
I heard this and I liked it.
I don’t really know anything about the band, except what I found on Wikipedia.
Plastiscines are Katty Besnard (singer/guitar), Marine Neuilly (guitar), Louise Basilien (bass), Anoushka Vandevyvere(also know as Anais) (drums) and former drummers Caroline and Zazie Tavitian.
They formed in 2004 after Besnard, Neuilly, and Tavitian, all of whom were at school together in Saint-Cyr-l’École, met Basilien, originally a harpist, at a concert by the English band, the Libertines. Their talent was recognised early on by Maxime Schmitt, producer of the German band Kraftwerk, and they were signed by EMI for the Virgin France label in October 2006. In addition to the Libertines, the band’s influences include the White Stripes, the Strokes and, from an earlier generation, the Kinks and Blondie. Their name derives from the phrase, “plasticine porters with looking glass ties” in the Beatles’ song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, on the 1967 album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Plastiscines have been critical of French retailing of rock music. Louise Basilien has remarked that she learnt about rock ‘n’ roll through her parents, the Internet, and by reading books: “the generation before us could not learn about rock ‘n’ roll because the stores here were rubbish”. As a consequence, the French rock scene in 2006–07 was seen by many as fresh and exciting, even though the requirement that forty per cent of songs broadcast on radio in France should be in French continued to militate against bands who wished to perform in English (which, because of its American origins and British dominance in the 1960s, has always been the prime language of rock ‘n’ roll).
Plastiscines were featured on the Gossip Girl episode, “They Shoot Humphreys, Don’t They?” at the Cotillion ball. Their single, “Barcelona” was also iTunes single of the week during the first week of January 2010. Their song “Bitch” was also featured on the same episode, and here it is;
So, what do people think?
TFD, will this tempt you to London?
I nominated a Spiders song for RR a couple of weeks ago and that (along with Fintan’s “WTF” post recently) prompted me that I had never followed up on my long-ago promised expose of Japanese 1960’s Groupsounds music. The main reason I didn’t is because it seems to me that without understanding Japanese, the tunes are possibly a little hard to like! The Japanese voice doesn’t have the allure of French or the lilt of the Latin languages and to be honest it’s not a particularly pleasant sound when viewed as another instrument.
But it holds a lot of appeal for me, so i’ve put together a few of my favourite songs from the era for your delectation.
Here’s the brief history:
As Beatlemania swept the world in the mid-60’s, Japan was not immune to the charms of the mop-topped ones and the hip young things of Tokyo started growing their hair and attempting to shake off the conservatism of post-war Japan and forge their own future. Music-wise, the result of this was a movement called Groupsounds (GS) that was a mixture of raw 60’s garage sounds and manufactured saccharine sixties pop. You have to dig deep to pick out the diamonds from the fluff but it’s rewarding when you do find a gem.
The Spiders – KoKeKokko
First up are the kings of GS and the closest Japan had to the Beatles (in terms of popularity that is, i’m not suggesting that these chancers had an ounce of the vision and talent of Lennon & McCartney). The Spiders were pure manufactured mid-60’s pop, but under the leadership of singer Masaaki Sakai (later to become a hero to a whole generation of British schoolkids as Monkey), they had a certain charm. This is the tune I nominated for RR and the lyrics seem to be an argument about what came first, the chicken or the egg?!
The Carnabeats – Sukisa Sukisa Sukisa
Sticking with the lighter side of GS, I just LOVE this tune by The Carnabeats (that’s them in the photo above). Not sure why, but the story of unrequited love that unfolds and the impassioned cry of “O mae no subete” (“you are everything”) strikes the underdog chord.
The Golden Cups – Hi Wa Mata Noboru
If The Spiders were the Beatles, The Golden Cups were The Rolling Stones (but not quite so famous!). Tall and rakishly handsome bassist Louis Louis Kabe had a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude reflected in the more reckless and raw sound, making them one of the best GS bands. The title can be translated as “The Sun Will Rise Again” and is a B-side.
The Mops – Hayaku
The Mops are another favourite of mine, I was going to post their self-referential classic “I’m A Mops” (sic), but ruled it out because it’s all sung in English (well, one form of English at least!), and chose this one instead. I’m not sure of the exact title, the version i’ve got is from a compilation LP made for a western audience that lists the song title as “Haiku”, but it’s definitely not called that, because he’s singing “hayaku” (“hurry!”) not “haiku”, so i’ll call it my version of “Hayaku”!
The Tigers – C-C-C
The Tigers were second only to the mighty Spiders in terms of popularity. They put out a huge number of singles and albums, splitting up once in 1971 and re-uniting again at the start of the 1980’s. This tune is a bit cheesy, but the handclaps alone make it irresistible to these ears.
The Mops – Omae No Subete
Just as an extra, I can’t resist posting this deranged nugget by The Mops (again!). This tune popped into my head a couple of days after the deadline for “desperation” songs had ended, it would have been a surefire A-list i’m sure!
Ejay’s Miles poster prompts me to go to my BMW file, I’ve been collecting Bob memorabilia since the 70’s, these are just a few of them. I’ve photographed Bob images on walls in JA, US, UK and in Africa plus I’m always on the lookout for books and DVD’s. Some of these I know the origins of, others were collected along the way, the first one I don’t recall where I got it from but #2&3 were posters done by friends, I’ve had them both framed and on the wall, the two color images, the first is an oil painting and the second a print and the unframed canvas oil painting is about 4ft square and is over my bed, it was painted by a friend and he designed the next one also, it’s a poster for one of my photo exhibitions, the panel down the center is the same as the message on the oil painting, the statement by Sellassie which Bob used for ‘War’. The next is an official proclamation honoring Bob for his music by the city of LA and the stamps were a set issued in Jamaica whilst I was there in ’81, I mailed several sets to myself and also bought a sheet of each value.
The last one is from another collection but I like it well enough to include it here, it’s from a collection of African political posters and was issued whilst we were in Zambia to honor the ANC.
The images are large enough that if you click on them they should expand enough to read the text.
I’ve got many more images of reggae related posters and so perhaps I’ll post them to my Picasa site, there’s lots of friends in LA who would enjoy seeing them since many relate to events there.
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The Leaves Must Fall
Fallen Not Broken
Fall In And Down On
so – Falling,
that’s something to do with having been in the Fall isn’t it?
With my fine mathematical mind.. that means.. wait, have to take my socks off…
Something sweet and mellow for Sunday morning.. and maybe I can squeeze this sublime slice of Philly disco/soul in as Music You Wouldn’t Necessarily Expect From The Pferd…?
Next week.. the Nilpferd glam meets hard rock mix…
Here’s something I came across on a great compilation Shane sent me, which is just too tangenital for RR…
And the associated sample, as far as I can tell, from Ras Ibuna.. Diverse Doctrine.