Saturday 30 May 2020

Taking the Fifth

You wait ten years for a post about flutes...

In the world of Fifth Beatles - I imagine it to be like a low rent Stella Street where Pete Best and Brian Epstein run the corner shop and Billy Preston mans the laundromat - its inhabitants are all tenuously linked (some more than others) to the four lads from Liverpool who shook the world. And the Fifth Beatle (of which there are more than you care to think), by inference, each played his or her (small) part in the shaking.
Anyway, about those flutes. Ever wondered who played the beautiful flute solo on John Lennon's You've Got to Hide Your Love Away? As pub quiz questions go it is quite niche, but the answer is Johnny Scott. Whilst this may not qualify him fully for Fifth Beatle status - maybe Sixth? - I bet it's a story that's enchanted the grandchildren over the intervening years.

Scott was - and indeed still is - a respected jazz musician, arranger and composer of many film scores. In the mid 1960s he found himself working with many acts on the EMI roster at Abbey Road and did a lot of work with George Martin (another early occupant of Fifth Avenue) - which is how he got sucked into the Beatles orbit.
At the behest of Martin he laid down a tenor flute in the spaces in Lennon's vocal track and an additional alto part played an octave higher. Hearing cover versions without the flute just don't sound right to me.

Before I go, I just want to leave you with one of my all time favourite Beatles quotes. And, before you ask, it's not delivered by a Beatle. It's actually a Dandy Nichols line quite early on in the Help movie: waving to the Fab Four as they get out of their chauffeured limo and walk to their respective front doors, Nichols says to her friend about how fame hasn't changed them: "And still the same as they was before they was." 

Friday 22 May 2020

Oval Room

The world was a very different place back in 1984; although maybe not as different as we'd like to think. Everything changes, and yet nothing changes. Plus ça change; take your pick.
So, cop a lad of this - written 36 years ago by maverick folk singer Blaze Foley, it's a withering attack on the 40th. president of the United States, one Ronald Reagan. But when I listen to it all I see is the present incumbent of the White House...

In his oval room, in his rockin’ chair,

He’s the president, but I don’t care.

He’s a business man, he got business ties.

He got dollar signs in both his eyes
Got a big airplane, take him everywhere.

Got his limousine, when he get there.

Everywhere he goes, make the people mad.

Makes the poor man beg, and the rich man glad.

Blaze Foley - Oval Room

Thursday 21 May 2020

Flute Loop

Being neither young nor hip, I don't generally do shout-outs. If I mention you on my blog there's every chance you either sent me a telegram or maybe there was an urgent SOS on Radio 4 appealing for my whereabouts.

That said, this brace of tunes is dedicated to George. George, I know, enjoys flutes and, indeed, flautistry. I can get on board with that - 
I too have a penchant for flute players/flautists/flutists/fluters and even flutenists. One of my favouritist flutenists is Herbie Mann. If I had to condense Herbie Mann into a five word sentence I think I'd say: "He wrote Comin' Home Baby." Anyway, he's Flautist 2/2. Flautist 1/2 is unknown; that is to say he/she is nothing but a borrowed sample; from where I know not. But it's a four second loop* that runs through one of my Saturday night kitchen floor fillers like a stick of rock.

Rinôçérôse - It's Time to Go Now (2002)

And here is the artist formerly known as Herbert J Solomon (1930-2003). I have many albums by this fella and never tire of listening to him. Mann straddled so many genres of music I'm almost tempted to use the word groundbreaking when I talk about him; almost, but not quite - what kind of blog do you think this is for heaven's sake? Suffice it to say that he out-Stoned the Stones with his 1974 version of Bitch and even got a real life Rolling Stone* to play guitar on it.

Herbie Mann - Memphis Underground (1968)

* A flute loop, if you will.
** Recorded in '73, Mick Taylor was still with the firm at the time.

Monday 18 May 2020

Who Would Live in a House Like This?

Lockdown has brought out the voyeur in us all: don't tell me you haven't muted your microphone, turned off the camera and had a good old gawp at your Zoom roommates' (Zoommates?) taste in decor; it's not just me. Is it?
OK, moving swiftly on. Rolling Stone magazine has been a fly on the wall in some of our most beloved rock star gaffs during these strange times. Watching the venerable Nick Lowe in his natural habitat* is a pure joy - all 14 minutes of it. The music aside**, I particularly like the cushions. And the stylish magazine rack. Oh, and the dog's called Larry btw. I, too, read a lot.

Nick Lowe: Lockdown 2020

* Brentford, west London
** How good is young Roy on the brushes?

Wednesday 13 May 2020

In an Ideal World...

My lockdown listen of the last seven days features one of rock and roll's unsung heroes: Henry Priestman - born in Hull, raised in Liverpool - is one of life's good guys. He's enjoyed a multi faceted career, but is probably best known for being one of the Christians - the 80s/90s combo featuring the three Christian* brothers, Garry, Roger and Russell. Devotees of David Hepworth and Mark Ellen's Word in Your Ear podcasts will be aware that a spin-off video version 'A Word in Your Attic' has been open for business throughout the lockdown, inviting guests to join them via their Webcams in a delightful show and tell format that I've found absolutely riveting. Henry Priestman's episode can be found here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Indeed I would strongly urge anyone contemplating a life laundry to give it a coat of looking at.

As they should this equally beguiling piece of footage: Henry himself has been recording his own lockdown sessions in his garden shed. Here he is performing a beautiful arrangement of Ideal World - with a little help from his (socially distancing) friends.

Henry Priestman - Ideal World (2020)

* Onomasticians can rest easy - for the record, Priestman's middle name is Christian.

Saturday 9 May 2020

What Were They Thinking?

When celebrities or people off the telly lend their name to a product, its chances of success are supposedly elevated to 'can't fail' status. It at least gives it a leg up; think Brut, think Cinzano. Though probably best not to think Cookstown Sausages.

In the world of compilation albums it's a slightly different dynamic. Curating a bunch of tunes and putting them in the right order shouldn't be that difficult. After all, most of us have been doing it since we were kids, right? Mixtapes for girlfriends/boyfriends: tasteful, not too cheesy; niche, not too obscure. Our much pored over C90s were a surefire1 way to win over that girl you were always overawed by. How hard can it be, we thought. Hmm, maybe some of us found it more difficult than others; like this lunkhead for instance.

However, in the age of the DJ Set, every label under the sun is putting out bespoke compilations lovingly pieced together by all and sundry2. I've got some corkers in amongst my collection, handpicked by the likes of Lemon Jelly, Faithless and Nightmares on Wax. Only last week I was banging on about these fellas. impeccable tunes, impeccable running order, impeccable artwork. Definitely worth the admission money and an hour of your time any day of the week.
But if early seventies proggy folk noodlings don't float your boat, then maybe the chaps pictured here are more to your liking: if soul deep cuts & Blue Note jazz are your thing then actor Martin Freeman and record label impresario Eddie Pillar's crate-digging should bring any Saturday night to life. Or gently ease you into your Sunday morning, depending.

Again, great tunes, great running order. But, the artwork. Man alive, those sleeves! What were they thinking? When two self proclaimed mods of a certain age decide to put themselves on the front cover, then trying to recreate a tacky 1972 Kays Catalogue photoshoot is never a good look. What were they thinking?

Bobby Womack - How Could You Break My Heart? (1979)

1. I'm kidding. When hormones are involved, there is no such thing as surefire - no matter how many mixtapes you bring to the table.

2.  File Bob Dylan under 'all and sundry' at your peril; in the world of celebrity endorsed albums - these are the benchmark.

Tuesday 5 May 2020


Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs - often referred to as 'the boffins from Saint Etienne' - have, in their time, curated and presided over some of the finest conceptual compilation albums you're ever likely to come across; drawing heavily on material from the very foothills of the 1970s is their stock in trade, and none the worse for that.

English Weather, from 2017, is no exception: when all things psychedelic gradually gave way to the prog movement at the arse end of the 60s a new sound was evoked, creating a rich seam that Stanley and Wiggs have mined for much of this collection. Stretched over four sides of vinyl it's very Autumnal, and, yes, very English. And I particularly like the accompanying artwork. Go on, treat yourself. 

Alan Parker & Alan Hawkshaw - Evening Shade (1971)