Having re-watched the above-named documentary about the musical relationship between David Grisman and Jerry Garcia again(!) last night, I just felt the need to share this slice of sinuous beauty with you. Just imagine you’re sitting in a parlour in 1902…….
Garcia’s best playing with the Dead may have passed by 1991 but his renewed friendship with Grisman produced some marvellous sounds from both of them, born out of a shared love of the music and a shared sense of fun.
If you google the name Antonio Forcione, the phrase that pops up instantly is ‘the Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar’. Having seen him last night in concert at Manchester’s Band On The Wall, I find that description wanting. He has Jimi’s technical skill and imagination but his style of playing is, to my ears and eyes, more akin to a mix of John Martyn, Paco de Lucia and Stanley Clarke. At any rate, it’s quite astonishingly inventive and beautiful. This is the tune he played for his final encore last night, and it gives a flavour of the wonderful music he makes.
It’s all instrumental and contains much improvisation, but there’s always an underlying tune or two and some joyfully-syncopated rhythms to latch on to as his spider-fingers weave their webs. As a guitarist now forced to re-evaluate his own pitiful attempts at playing, I find what he does quite breathtaking. As a listener, I hope you do too.
He seems to play anywhere, with anyone (last night he had a percussionist and acoustic bass guitar player with him), and is not above doing covers of pop songs. His current concert schedule is here.
One-two, one-two is the first rhythm we experience: our mother’s heartbeat. When everything else has leaked out from our atrophied brain, it seems we still understand that and respond to it. No wonder it’s the basis for most of the music we know and why we call the time signature* 4/4, ‘common time’.
But we also discover the lilting joy of one-two-three, or ‘waltz time’ (the time signature 3/4). We savour its hint of rebellion, yet remain secure in the certainty that two of these cycles make three comforting back-and-forth one-twos. Much African and Latin American music uses this pleasing tension between two- and three-beats in an accumulated 12-beat rhythm, which is both four sets of three beats and three sets of four. The chugging blues uses the same 12 beats but with much less subtlety: four main beats each sub-divided into three, of which we hear the first and third (i.e. duh, der-duh, der-duh, der-duh, etc). In truth, this rhythm is closer to that of an actual heartbeat, so that may be why we are so at ease with it.
We can all dance to music built on a base of three or four beats. But how about five beats? Or seven? Tricky. That’s why such oddities are generally only found in jazz or prog rock, where dancing is not the prime objective.
I think Jethro Tull’s Living In The Past is the only song in 5/4 time to ever make the UK charts (it got to number 3 back in 1969).
You know what to do by now. Open your lugholes, filter the noises through your accumulated history and taste and then condemn one (or more) to the drop.
Les Amants – René Magritte, 1928
While putting these tracks together I started to detect fragments of a story, one of those tales that jump back and forth in time (I’ve just read Hari Kunzru’s Gods Without Men, so that may be why). If you buy that idea, an alternative game is to replace your least favourite chapter/song with one more to your taste that still fits the ‘storyline’ or just add one that fills a gap. If you haven’t a clue what I’m on about, please don’t call the men in white coats.
Apologies for the variable sound quality: tracks 6, 7 and 11 were digitised from their LP’s. No apologies for the tone or the two minor porkies.
The Stones fled the UK 40 years ago in order to pay less/no UK tax, so there’s a long-standing precedent for the avoidance activities currently being indulged in by the likes of Starbucks, Amazon et al.
But what business activity are Jay-Z and Beyoncé setting an example for in their attempt to trademark their daughter’s name? Sounds a bit like something the megalomaniacal Apple might do, except that branding is really important to them and protecting business interests is what trademarking is all about.
No, sorry, I simply can’t get my head around these two immensely rich people attempting to get even richer by exploiting their child. Their products should be boycotted, shouldn’t they?
If you like films that have such an effect, go and see Holy Motors.
Monsieur Oscar bids goodbye to the children, they wish him a good day at work and he gets into a stretch limo to fulfill nine appointments around Paris. In the limo is a sophisticated make-up table, which he uses to play different characters when he steps out of the car.
So, it’s about films? Acting? Playing roles in life? Memory? Who we are? And, more concretely, what exactly are the Holy Rollers? And, for bish, can a barely-recognisable Kylie be singing a distinctly non-Kylie Neil Hannon song among the Paris rooftops without a nod to Moulin Rouge?
I’d love to get others’ opinions so, as I say, go and see it. This is the trailer, which seems to have a different opinion to me.
The special train carrying musicians around Britain pulled into Victoria Station yesterday and they put a show on at The Ritz for us Mancs. It was pretty darned good.
The idea was obviously cribbed from a certain Canadian tour of 1970 but that was definitely a good thing, as everyone on stage seemed to be having a ball and, at times, they were simply carrying on a jam that had kicked off earlier on the rail tracks.
I’d guess that around 40 musicians and singers played some part during the 4 hour gig, in pre-formed groups or simply joining in with mates. No set-up played more than two songs (and often only one) before different people took a turn. This meant that about 40% of the concert was re-jigging instruments and mikes but there was still a helluva lot of great music (and the genial behaviour of the large, bald, chief roadie made the changes quite amusing). Continue reading →
Every year since 1996, Deadheads have commemorated the first nine days of August as the Days Between. The title of the last of the 61 songs he wrote with Robert Hunter, it signifies the 53-year gap between Jerry Garcia’s birth on the 1st of August 1942 and his death on the 9th of August 1995. This year, Jerry would have been 70 years old.
There were days, and there were days
And there were days I know
When all we ever wanted
Was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
We told them where to go
Walked halfway around the world
On promise of the glow
Stood upon a mountain top
Walked barefoot in the snow
Gave the best we had to give
How much we’ll never know
We’ll never know
Dead.net has some words, music and pictures, as you’d expect. Maybe you have a song you’d like to post – or request be added to this playlist*, starting with one of my favourites, Black Peter. Jerry loved a sad song, and this one doesn’t end happily, but there’s still joy in his playing and heart in his voice. From New Year’s Eve, 1972.
A Magnetic Tape Reel Label: recording in the Steam Age
40 years ago, after almost two months in Yurp*, the Grateful Dead tribe of 50-odd (some very odd) musicians, roadies, managers, techies and associated ‘other halves’ packed up their equipment and belongings and headed back to the San Francisco Bay Area, taking with them an estimated 17 miles of music-coated magnetic tape. By all accounts, they had enjoyed themselves and accumulated good memories that would last for some considerable time. Continue reading →
THE sponsors of the Bickershaw Pop Festival were today counting the cost of the big flop. They spent thousands of pounds promoting the three-day festival which ended in the early hours of today. One of the sponsors, market trader Mr Harry ‘The Count’ Bilkus [real name Harry Cohen] commented at his home just over the road from the festival site: ‘It’s a total disaster. I have lost everything. I don’t know what to do.’ Just 40,000 fans turned up to the festival, braving ankle deep mud during rain storms – only one third of the number which organisers had hoped for. In all, it could mean a £60,000 loss.
…which is well over half a million pounds in today’s prices. Musically, however, it was anything but a flop. And a ‘bloomin’ catastrophe’ on the tower was avoided…
Click Here for more details (in an unashamed attempt to remind you of my on-going trip).
We’ve all seen a ‘coming of age’ film or ten. Some are good (e.g. The Last Picture Show) but most are fairly dire (I’m sure you can provide your own examples). They generally involve conflict, bad behaviour and parental lack-of-understanding that leads to catharsis, epiphany and ‘learning something’ (a process rigorously satirised every week by South Park). Just like real life isn’t.
I saw an Austrian film yesterday that fits perfectly into the category but has none of the clichés: Atmen (titled Breathing for English-speaking audiences). It’s about an 18-year-old boy in a Juvenile Detention Centre who is coming up to a parole hearing. He’s withdrawn and unco-operative and seems to have little expectation of success. His Probation Officer (I’m translating to the apparent UK equivalent role) is pushing him to get a job, as that will impress the review panel, and he lands a trainee position at the Vienna City Morgue, collecting and delivering corpses.
I urge you to see it, if you can. There are no car chases or gross-out comedy scenes, obviously, but neither is it a pretentious Arthouse movie. It is one of the most humane films I have ever seen. Despite our hero’s lack of expression, we can see him start to understand life (and death) and gradually gain some insight into why he is where he is.
This is the trailer, which gives away more of the plot than it should, perhaps. Trust me: just go and see the film.*
*No, I never trust anyone that says ‘Trust me’ either….
In a first attempt to introduce some stability to their currencies in relation to the US dollar, the six member states of the European Economic Community (West Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) agreed, at a meeting in Basel 40 years ago today, to create a currency exchange rate system. It became known as the ‘snake in the tunnel’: the ‘snake’ being the various intra-European exchange rates and the ‘tunnel’ being the limitations created by the dollar’s exchange rate with them. Continue reading →
Beat-Club was a TV music program that ran from September 1965 to December 1972, broadcast from Bremen, in what was then West Germany. Many UK and US acts, and Kraftwerk, performed on it and a fair number of clips from the show – including performances from the likes of Alice Cooper, King Crimson, ELP, Deep Purple, The Doors, Canned Heat, BB King, Jethro Tull, Cream and The Who – can be found here.
[Achtung: Sie verlassen jetzt die Totenfreizone!] Continue reading →
As the tributes deservedly pour in on the sad loss of Levon Helm, the departure of another great figure was announced: that of Bert Weedon.
I don’t know if he’s still that influential but, for my generation of budding guitarists, his book, Play In A Day, was the manual for learning how to become a Rock’n'Roll Star. Not the flashy, ego-flaunting side of it but the nuts and bolts: how to play Emajor, Amajor and Bmajor, the building blocks of life in rock and pop music. You had to negotiate the tune of Molly Malone too – and the book’s title was slightly over-egged – but it was enough to launch many talents down the road to axe-heaven (even I made a few steps along it).
Unlike television in their homeland, Danish TV was willing to broadcast the Grateful Dead live, in stereo and without numerous ad breaks. They didn’t air the hour-long Dark Star/Sugar Magnolia/Caution but a fair number of the earlier songs were supplied to the Danish public’s ears and eyes. What seems to be the full broadcast show from the second night at the Tivoli on April 17th 1972 is now on YouTube (see below).
To add some visual interest to the show (let’s face it, there’s not a lot of snazzy stagecraft in a Dead performance), they donned their Bolo and Bozo masks to play Big Railroad Blues (at the hour mark in the video).
On the same day that the penultimate voyagers to the Moon lifted off from Florida in Apollo 16, the Grateful Dead played a concert to 700 people in the very crowded cafeteria of Aarhus University. They opened the first set with Bob Weir’s speeding rocker, Greatest Story Ever Told, the first line of which is Moses come riding up on a quasar, setting up this post for me 40 years later, in which I connect their blazing start to that of Apollo 16 (and Moses).
Except they didn’t really blaze. Bobby stumbles over the lyrics, Garcia doesn’t hit it right and even Phil fails to nail it (although Keith makes a good fist of the piano part). Donna, whose vocals add to the mayhem of the song when it’s played right, went completely AWOL for the night. Typical! Continue reading →
The source I’ve been using for the ‘40 years ago’ events says of April 14th, 1972: The Grateful Dead played their first paying concert in front of a foreign language crowd, in Copenhagen, Denmark at the Tivolis Koncertsa. (They played a free concert in the grounds of the ‘Honky Château’ in Hérouville, France in 1971, meaning good old Wikipedia is technically correct). So, as I don’t need to construct a tenuous link today, I’ll just play a song from what was the first of two nights at the Tivoli.
This is one of several from Ace, the ‘solo’ album they’d been helping Bob Weir to record just before coming over the Atlantic: Looks Like Rain. Continue reading →
On April 11th, 1972, the United States Conference of Roman Catholic bishops was opened to the press for the first time and 75 reporters turned up to the meeting in Atlanta to hear Cardinal John Krol deliver his speech. In Latin.
The Cardinal told reporters, “We told you we’d let you in. We didn’t tell you what language we’d talk.” Pranksters can be found in the most unlikely of places, it seems.
There were also language issues when the Grateful Dead buses headed up to play the Newcastle-upon-Tyne City Hall on the same day, expecting that it wouldn’t be until they sailed across the North Sea that they’d have difficulty understanding the locals….
Almost everyone has used Elmore James’ version as a template for their cover – it’s more of a standard 12-bar blues song than Tampa Red’s earlier composition – and the Grateful Dead were no exception. But they played it slower than most and, as ever, their interpretation is not just the singer and lead guitar over a formulaic blues backing.
Despite Pigpen’s deteriorating health (he died a year later), he makes a valiant attempt to emulate his bluesmen heroes and plays some decent harmonica on this performance from Wembley on April 8th, 1972. Garcia set a much slower pace for most of the later versions on the tour, causing poor Ron to hold those harmonica notes even longer, but this is just about right, I reckon. The overall performance is subtly understated, delicate even, and what Ron’s voice lacks in power is made up for by the excellent tone and dynamics of the instrumentation.
…that Mormon Sunday School teacher and would-be FBI agent Richard McCoy Jr. boarded United Airlines Flight 855 under the alias ‘James Johnson’. By threatening to blow the plane up mid-flight, he struck a deal with the airline to have half a million dollars and a parachute ready for him at San Francisco airport. After landing there, collecting his loot and releasing the passengers, the plane returned to the skies and he jumped from it at 16,000 feet over Utah, landed safely and hitch-hiked home. He and most of the money were found two days later and he received a 45-year prison sentence. He escaped from jail two years later but when the FBI caught up with him again, they shot him dead.
At the same time as McCoy’s hijacking exploits, the Grateful Dead’s road crew were suspending parachutes from the ceiling of the Empire Pool in Wembley, in an attempt to improve its dire acoustics prior to the band taking the stage for the first concert of their first European tour…. Continue reading →