Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Ashes to Ashes

Ahead of tomorrow night's Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk, Adam writes…

From time-to-time, we spot a famous musician along the route of my Rock'n'Roll London walk. This is London and, as I state in the voice over for the Rock'n'Roll London video, all roads lead here as the capital of the music biz in this country.

But the most memorable sighting along the route of any of my London Walks involved not a star, but an ordinary person.

On any other day, she would have been as anonymous on any London street as you or me. And on any other day I wouldn't have given her a second glance.

I was leading a private musical London tour for a family from New York. It was an all-morning tour and we had taken a taxi to finish at the famous Abbey Road crossing.

We were waiting for the traffic and the crowds to calm down a little so that I could snap the obligatory photo of the family on the world's most famous cross walk. As we waited our turn, I noticed that one woman was crossing back and forth. Not in a conspicuous way. She would walk, at a regular pace from one side of the road to the other, pause for a few moments, and then cross back.

It's not uncommon for fans to pose for two-or-three "takes" - if you've come a long way to get this shot then it would be a shame if it wasn't right.

But as we waited for our turn - it was a particularly busy morning at Abbey Road – something caught my eye as the woman, in her 50s, maybe her 60s, crossed again.

It first glance I thought she was smoking - a cigarette or vape contraption was creating wispy clouds from her hand (Paul, after all, has a fag on in the famous sleeve).

But the cloud wasn't drifting up. It was falling down.

It was then I realised… she was scattering ashes.

It was a discreet and very moving scene.  

The Rock'n'Roll London Walk meet on Fridays at 2pm Tottenham Court Road tube (exit 1). (We visit the Abbey Road crossing on The Beatles walking tours)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

London Record Stores: Reckless Records

Ahead of tomorrow's Rock'n'Roll London Walk, Adam writes… 

Reckless Records

A very forward-looking establishment, is Reckless Records: they even sell those new-fangled compact-disc thingies. Quite a good selection, too.

But the real treasure trove here is the vinyl. Second hand records, a great selection spread over most genres in a central location.

They even keep a copy of What’s The Story Morning Glory in the window, with a little sticker attached with the words You Are Here. For indeed you are – Berwick Street was where the sleeve for that fabled Oasis album was shot.

The Rock'n'Roll London walk meets at Tottenham Court Road tube (exit 1) 2pm and passes near Reckless Records…

Here's the video for the Rock'n'Roll London walk…

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

All Along The Watchtower

Ahead of tomorrow's Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk, Adam writes…

All Along The Watchtower has has developed something of a mythology all its own (even for a Dylan song). It first appeared on 1968's enigmatic (even for a Dylan album) John Wesley Harding. Since the late 70's Dylan has performed it live more often that any other song. Reflecting this it features on no less than four live albums.

For many it is a mystical classic - are there echoes of the Tarot in The Joker and The Thief? Dylan biographer Clinton Haylin found parallels with the Book of Isaiah (21:5-9) . For others yet, Dylan's Greenwich Village comrade-in-song Dave Van Ronk for example, it's the emperor's new clothes.

Hendrix's version was a no. 20 hit in the US and arguably has taken the song to a wider post-60s audience than the original album version by Dylan. In a further twist of mythology, soon-to-be-ex-Rolling Stone Brian Jones played piano on the track (sadly edited out).

The song was chosen by director Bruce Robinson to soundtrack the crumbling Camden Town of 1969, a visual metaphor for the death of the 60s, in his movie Withnail & I. Here's the scene… 

The following playlist brings together 10 versions of the song – beginning with the Jimi Hendrix Experience version and Dylan's original John Wesley Harding cut.

Patti Smith rasps and growls through a live version at CBGB's in 1979; Bobby Womack's version finds the groove; U2's version from Rattle & Hum, features Adam Clayton's dumb as a quarterback with concussion bassline anchoring Edge's unusually discordant guitar and Bono's strangely tentative delivery. 

Thea Gilmore's crystal vocal makes the arrangement around her shimmer. Bryan Ferry serves the song surprisingly well, pulling back on his famously mannered vocals (wish I could say the same for the soft rock arrangement, so earnest it makes me miss the U2 version.) Ferry knows what he's doing, though, and has previous Dylan form – see also his A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (1973). Paul Weller goes percussive AND soulful on his 2004 covers album Studio 150. Perhaps most intriguing is Pulitzer Prize-winning classical and Oscar-winning soundtrack composer John Corigliano's arrangement for soprano voice (here Israeli-born, Julliard-educated operatic soprano Hila Pitmann). What's interesting about this version is that the arrangement changes with each new thought/idea in the lyric – allowing us to explore the emotions in the song. It's hysterical, angry, confused, reflective and weary by turns.

The playlist closes with one of Dylan's own live versions – this from the Live at Budokan album (1978).

Friday, 12 May 2017

A #PinkFloyd Word Cloud & A Syd Playlist

Adam writes…

As regular Daily Constitutionalists and Rock'n'Roll London Walkers are already aware, I have been spending a lot of time with Pink Floyd in the run-up to my Pink Floyd London Walk on Saturday 17th June.

For a bit of fun, I pasted just one page of my notes into a word cloud generator. I think it gives a bit of the flavour of the walk…

By way of a warm-up, here's a Syd Barrett-flavoured playlist, featuring my 10 favourite Syd songs from early demos, to the first two Floyd albums and his brace of elusive solo records…

The Pink Floyd London walk is on Saturday 17th June at 10:45a.m meeting at Leicester Square tube…

You can book in advance here…

Here's a trailer for the walk…

Thursday, 11 May 2017

On This Day In Rock'n'Roll… 1963

On this day in Rock’n’Roll history 1963… The Beatles began a 30 week run at the No.1 spot in the UK album charts with their debut album Please Please Me.

The album sleeve – by Angus McBean – was shot at EMI’s headquarters in Manchester Square. The Fabs returned to the same spot in 1969 for a photo shoot that would eventually end up on the sleeve of the Apple album known by many fans as “The Blue Album” (actually titled simply 1967 – 1970)

The next Rock'n'Roll London Walk meets on Friday at 2pm Tottenham Court Road tube…

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Train Songs & The London Underground in Rock & Pop

Ahead of tomorrow's Rock'n'roll London Pub Walk, Adam writes…

The Musical London Underground Top Five

1. Graham Bond and Finsbury Park 

Born in Romford in 1937, the under-appreciated Graham Bond was a big mover and shaker in the early days of the British R&B boom. His band The Graham Bond Organisation featured Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums with Bond taking care of keyboard and vocal duties. He died under the wheels of a train at Finsbury Park tube station in 1974. His manifold mental health issues, heavy drug use, financial problems and dwindling commercial success all seem to have contributed to his suicide. I'll be chatting about him this afternoon on the Rock'n'Roll London Walk.

My favourite track of his is Long Tall Shorty recorded for Decca in 1964…

2. Bond Street and The Jam

The Jam's Down In The Tube Station At Midnight
, a four-minute post-Punk Play For Today about racially aggravated assault made No.15 in the UK chart in 1978. The sleeve featured a shot taken at Bond Street Underground station…

3. Fab Macca at Leicester Square

Dame Paul McCartney busks at Leicester Square tube in the movie Give My Regards To Broad Street.

4. Liverpool Street

NME journo Tony Parsons interviewed The Clash on a Circle Line train in the spring of 1977. According to Parsons, they all alighted Liverpool Street tube to take amphetamine sulphate in a photo booth on the platform.

5. Chalk Farm and Madness

The 1980 album Absolutely sees Madness pose outside Chalk Farm tube. Perhaps a signal failure at Kennington had prevented them from shooting the sleeve inside…?

For good measure, here's a train song playlist entitled For Those In Peril On the Northern Line…

Here's the trailer for the Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk…

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Monday, 8 May 2017

A Cat Song Playlist

Adam writes…

I'm playing a short set at the Alley Cat Bar in Denmark Street on Wednesday as part of my Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk.

Here's a picture of The Alley Cat

… and here's a picture of my daughter's cat Natasha

… and here's a cat-themed playlist. 16 cat-related tunes…

I've included Syd Barrett's Lucifer Sam from Pink Floyd's first album Piper at the Gates of Dawn – the title was inspired by his pet Siamese. Stevie Wonder is on there, too - Superstition makes the list thanks to its mention of a black cat. And there's The Cramps doing Can Your Pussy Do The Dog? Make of that what you will. And I've added one lion (from Lloyd Cole) and one tiger (no cat playlist complete without the Rocky III theme).

And I would like due credit for resisting the following cat-music puns in the naming of the playlist…

Cat's The Way U-Huh U-Huh I Like It

Meeow That's What I Call Music

The Ace Of Spayeds

The Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk with LIVE Music meets at Tottenham Court Road tube on Wednesday nights at 7pm.

 You can book ahead for the Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk with LIVE Music via EventBrite