Thursday 29 July 2010

The Other Monkey

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Ann Arbor Variations

Wet heat drifts through the afternoon
like a campus dog, a fraternity ghost
waiting to stay home from football games.
The arches are empty clear to the sky.

Except for the leaves: those lashes of our
thinking and dreaming and drinking sight.
The spherical radiance, the Old English
look, the sum of our being, "hath perced

to the roote" all our springs and falls
and now rolls over our limpness, a daily
dragon. We lose our health in a love
of color, drown in a fountain of myriads,

as simply as children. It is too hot,
our birth was given up to screaming. Our
life on these street lawns seems silent.
The leaves chatter their comparisons

to the wind and the sky fills up
before we are out of bed. O infinite
our siestas! adobe effigies in a land
that is sick of us and our tanned flesh.

The wind blows towards us particularly
the sobbing of our dear friends on both
coasts. We are sick of living and afraid
that death will not be by water, o sea.

Along the walks and shaded ways
pregnant women look snidely at children.
Two weeks ago they were told, in these

selfsame pools of trefoil, "the market
for emeralds is collapsing," "chlorophyll
shines in your eyes," "the sea's misery

is progenitor of the dark moss which hides
on the north side of trees and cries."
What do they think of slim kids now?

and how, when the summer's gong of day
and night slithers towards their sweat
and towards the nest of their arms

and thighs, do they feel about children
whose hides are pearly with days of swimming?
Do they mistake these fresh drops for tears?

The wind works over these women constantly!
trying, perhaps, to curdle their milk
or make their spring unseasonably fearful,

season they face with dread and bright eyes,
The leaves, wrinkled or shiny like apples,
wave women courage and sigh, a void temperature.

The alternatives of summer do not remove
us from this place. The fainting into skies
from a diving board, the express train to
Detroit's damp bars, the excess of affection
on the couch near an open window or a Bauhaus
fire escape, the lazy regions of stars, all
are strangers. Like Mayakovsky read on steps
of cool marble, or Yeats danced in a theatre
of polite music. The classroon day of dozing
and grammar, the partial eclipse of the head
in the row in front of the head of poplars,
sweet Syrinx! last out the summer in a stay
of iron. Workmen loiter before urinals, stare
out windows at girders tightly strapped to clouds.
And in the morning we whimper as we cook
an egg, so far from fluttering sands and azure!

The violent No! of the sun
burns the forehead of hills.
Sand fleas arrive from Salt Lake
and most of the theatres close.

The leaves roll into cigars, or
it seems our eyes stick together
in sleep. O forest, o brook of
spice, o cool gaze of strangers!

the city tumbles towards autumn
in a convulsion of tourists
and teachers. We dance in the dark,
forget the anger of what we blame

on the day. Children toss and murmur
as a rumba blankets their trees and
beckons their stars closer, older, now.
We move o'er the world, being so much here.

It's as if Poseidon left off counting
his waters for a moment! In the fields
the silence is music like the moon.
The bullfrogs sleep in their hairy caves.

across the avenue a trefoil lamp
of the streets tosses luckily.
The leaves, finally, love us! and
moonrise! we die upon the sun.



Wednesday 28 July 2010

Tonight's set list

At The Habit, York: -

Already One
The Old Laughing Lady
Captain Kennedy
Don't Let It Bring You Down
Sugar Mountain

For Ben.


Don't Think Too Much

Personally, I like it as Hearts and Bones, but...
Think Too Much: The Simon and Garfunkel Album That Wasn't

Robin Platts

August 22, 1983. A packed concert at the newly constructed BC Place stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are halfway through a set on the last leg of their North American tour, billed as “A Summer Night with Simon and Garfunkel.”

The summer tour is the latest phase of a successful reunion that began with the 1981 Concert in Central Park. The next step is a new album, titled Think Too Much, Simon and Garfunkel’s first full-length studio collaboration since 1970’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.

The first half of the Vancouver concert has gone smoothly, packed with hits from “Cecilia” to “El Condor Pasa,” with a couple of new tunes and respective solo offerings thrown in; but things hit a slight bump in the road as the duo launch into the title track from the Think Too Much album: both miss their entrance and neglect to sing the first line of the song. Then one tries to sing the first line as the other attempts to catch up by singing the second. They are back together in time for the voices to blend on “The fact is you don’t think as much as you could,” which Simon follows with a spoken “huh… yeah.”

Twenty-six years ago, that simple “huh…yeah,” sounded like nothing more than a jokey acknowledgement of an onstage screw-up. Today, listening back to a bootleg recording of the Vancouver concert, the aside sounds loaded, perhaps rueful.

Maybe that’s just a hindsight-tainted temptation to read too much into it, but the fact is that on that summer night, Paul Simon had a lot on his mind. One thing weighing on him was the fate of the new Simon and Garfunkel album.

Publicly, the Think Too Much LP was expected out following the tour; privately, it was dead in the water, and Simon and Garfunkel’s partnership, which had been on-again and off-again for almost three decades, was about to enter another “off-again” phase.

As 1982 turned into 1983, the reunion sparked by the Central Park show had looked less and less like a one-off thing and more like an ongoing partnership. The surest sign of this direction was the revelation that there was a new album in the works: Think Too Much, a studio collection of new Simon-penned songs to feature the classic Simon and Garfunkel vocal blend.

In some respects, the project was doomed from the start. The songs intended for the Think Too Much album hadn’t been written with Simon and Garfunkel in mind—they were written for Simon’s next solo LP, a follow-up to the unjustly overlooked One-Trick Pony. Immediately after the Central Park concert, Simon had started recording his new solo album.

With Lenny Waronker co-producing, Simon recorded several of his news songs, including “The Late Great Johnny Ace,” “Song About the Moon” and “Allergies.” Waronker left the project in 1982 after becoming president of Warner Bros.

In the meantime, the success of the Central Park concert brought demand for further reunion shows, and Simon and Garfunkel obliged, touring Japan and Europe in 1982. The success of the reunion, combined with pressure from Warner Bros, caused Simon to consider the idea of a new Simon and Garfunkel studio album. In interviews in the spring of 1982 Simon and Garfunkel were suggesting that a reunion album was a possibility. Simon was by this point roughly halfway through recording his solo album, so the logical route was to simply bring Garfunkel in and turn it into a Simon and Garfunkel album.

The reunion album project was fraught with tension from the beginning. One source of unease for Simon was the fact that this particular set of songs was very personal to him.

“These new songs are too much about my life—about Carrie [Fisher]—to have anybody else sing them,” he told Playboy in 1984. Garfunkel countered that he understood the emotions behind the songs and that, as a singer, he could interpret them.

Simon agreed to give it a try, on the condition that he would produce the album alone. On the duo’s earlier efforts, Simon shared production duties with Garfunkel and Roy Halee. Halee did reunite with Simon and Garfunkel to work on the new album, eventually credited as the album’s co-producer and chief engineer.

Simon’s demand for production autonomy frustrated Garfunkel, but he reluctantly agreed and then began the task of devising his own vocal parts for Simon’s new songs. This included some solo vocal parts—such as the bridges of “Cars Are Cars” and “Song About the Moon”— as well as the trademark harmonies. However, Simon’s new melodies didn’t lend themselves as readily to Garfunkel’s harmonies as had their ‘60s counterparts.

“[The songs] weren’t written for us both to sing,” Simon pointed out in a Spokane Chronicle interview conducted just before the 1983 tour kicked off. “We have to solve the problem of singing these songs with two voices that weren’t written with that in mind... They’re not as harmonically uncomplicated as they were in the ‘60s. Simply two-part doesn’t apply as much as it did then.”

Garfunkel took his time writing his vocal parts, to the point where Simon had already finished recording his own vocals and Garfunkel wasn’t ready, still wanting more time to work out his parts. To make matters worse, Garfunkel countered Simon’s solo-production decree by requesting to record his vocal parts without Simon present in the studio.

Eric Korte, a second engineer assisting Roy Halee, was one of a dozen or so engineers who worked on the Think Too Much/Hearts and Bones sessions.

”Art wanted more creative input, rather than just being a background singer on Paul’s songs,” says Korte, and to that end, Garfunkel “had booked some sessions to come up with his own vocal parts.” Korte recalls that at a playback session to review Garfunkel’s efforts, Simon didn’t seem thrilled.

“Paul was a super-perfectionist about what he wanted,” Korte says, “and he was in the mood to take his time on the project and try a lot of different stuff.” As far as working with Garfunkel, “Paul was willing to give it a try, but he was in a different headspace.”

Korte recalls that the best moments came when Simon and Garfunkel got on the mic and sang together “That was very special,” Korte recalls. “When they went on mic together and Paul was in charge; but Art wanted to go beyond that and Paul just wasn’t digging it.”

Work dragged on over the course of a year or so. The goal was to get Think Too Much into record stores in advance of the summer 1983 North American tour. As the shows drew closer, it became increasingly apparent that Simon and Garfunkel wouldn’t have the album ready in time.

With hindsight, that missed deadline was more than a missed chance to move a few more units off the back of the live shows; it was the last chance to get the album out before the old acrimony resurfaced over the summer.

Without a new album to promote, Simon and Garfunkel hit the road in July 1983, starting in Akron, Ohio, at the Rubber Bowl Stadium. The Akron show featured a quartet of songs from the still unfinished album —“Song About the Moon,” “Allergies,” “Think Too Much” and “Johnny Ace” —mixed in with S&G hits, respective solo offerings and a new cover version of “One Summer Night.” The set list varied somewhat throughout the tour, with “Song About the Moon” and “Allergies” dropped partway through and replaced with “Cars Are Cars.”

As the tour stopped in Pittsburgh, the local paper’s review of the concert speculated about the upcoming reunion LP: “Whether Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel can be a valid musical entity in the future... will be decided with the next album, their first recording of original music since 1970. The disc is tentatively titled Think Too Much and targeted for a fall release.”

In interviews during July, the duo sounded increasingly confident about the album, and spoke of it as though it was almost finished. Media reports at that time suggested Think Too Much was on track for release at the end of August.

However, a profile by Robert Hilburn that ran in the Sarasota Herald Tribune made it clear that it had not been an easy process. “Things did not go all that smoothly when they got into the studio this year,” Hillburn noted. “They even ended up working in separate studios.”

In the Hilburn piece, Simon confessed to feeling pressure about the album. “People kept asking, ‘Are you going to make an album together?’ or ‘God, it would be great if you made an album together’. And I felt Artie wanted to be involved in it very much. I also realized that by including him on it I would probably improve the overall quality, certainly would improve the sales and would satisfy a lot of people. I also knew we’d end up in some terrific fights over points I really didn’t want to fight about. And that’s exactly what happened.”

“The truth is,” Simon explained, “I had a very hard time emotionally turning it over to make it a Simon and Garfunkel album.”

“I didn’t write for Artie’s voice,” Simon told Hilburn in mid-July. Despite the fact that the album was still supposedly going ahead, Simon’s comments to Hilburn suggested he was already well on his way to talking himself out of the reunion album idea. “I was writing a group of songs that seemed very special to me. I think, in a certain way, he improves my records. He makes the sound of them more agreeable to many, many people. But I don’t care. It’s an odd situation. I essentially see myself as a writer, and I don’t want to obscure the writing. I think my voice is a good vehicle for my writing, even with its flaws.

Garfunkel was more positive about the project, enthusing in a Spokane Chronicle article, “I’m so keyed up. This morning, I think I found the harmony that is just what I want for ‘Cars Are Cars All over the World.’ I’m on the tips of my toes with the sense of readiness to see if I can slip it into the tape the way I want.”

“I think people are going to be knocked out by Paul’s new tunes, which are very autobiographical and very accessible,” he told the Milwaukee Sentinel.

In a July interview with the Modesto Bee, Garfunkel said “We’ve almost finished the new album, which is very exciting to me. It’s a valid Simon and Garfunkel album, with all-new Paul Simon songs that are better than ever.” Garfunkel acknowledged there had been “difficulties” with the project, but said “I believe again that it’s coming along nicely.”

Simon had a somewhat different view of the project: In August, as the North American tour neared its conclusion, he called Garfunkel to inform him of two things.

Garfunkel recalled the phone call in a 1990 interview with Time: “He does things that I could never understand. He called me up one day and said, 'Artie, I'm dropping your vocals on “Hearts and Bones.” It's not turning into the kind of album I want it to. And by the way, I'm marrying Carrie on Tuesday, and I want you to come.'"

Once the project reverted to a solo album, all of Garfunkel’s vocals were meticulously wiped from the multitrack tapes. “We had to make sure all Art’s vocal parts were erased from the master tapes,” recalls engineer Eric Korte.

In late September, following the North American dates, Simon and Garfunkel wound up their tour with two shows at the Ramat Gan Stadium outside Tel Aviv, Israel. According to a newspaper story at the time, the Tel Aviv shows were “billed as their last,” and that the visit coincided with Simon visiting Israel with Carrie Fisher on their honeymoon.

Arlen Roth, one of the two guitarists in Simon and Garfunkel’s ’83 band recalls encountering a dejected-looking Garfunkel prior to one of the Tel Aviv shows. “I asked him what was wrong and he said, ‘Well, how would you feel if you just found out you'd been erased from an entire album?”

After Tel Aviv, the duo went their separate ways, and would not work together again for many years. Garfunkel has admitted that his removal from the album was a very sore point.

Fans looking out for the new Simon and Garfunkel LP were no doubt confused by the November 1983 release of the new Paul Simon album, titled Hearts and Bones. A quick scan of the track listing revealed that the album included all the tracks touted for inclusion on the Simon and Garfunkel album. The planned S&G title track, “Think Too Much,” appeared in two incarnations. Even in those long-ago pre-Internet days, when updates about your favourite rock musicians were few and far between, the message was clear: the Simon and Garfunkel album had been scrapped and replaced by Hearts and Bones.

Russ Titelman commented in an article in the Palm Beach Post in October 1983, “Paul never really decided if he wanted the album to be his own or Simon and Garfunkel’s”

What is the point of this story? What information pertains? The fact is, in an age when every inch of notable tape from every rock legend has somehow leaked out, Simon and Garfunkel’s Think Too Much album remains locked in a vault somewhere.

But what is on the tape? Certainly not a finished, mixed and mastered album. There’s definitely a rough mix of the album with Garfunkel on it, although whether or not he appears on the whole album is unclear, as is the question of whether or not his vocals were actually finished.

The only firm evidence is a bootleg of studio rough mixes, on which Garfunkel’s voice is clearly discernable on two tracks—his harmonies on “Train in the Distance” and a gorgeous vocal solo (the “laughing boy” section) on “Song About the Moon.”

There are also a handful of live recordings from the 1983 tour, on which Garfunkel joins Simon to sing “Cars Are Cars,” “Think Too Much” (the fast version), and “Allergies.”

The Think Too Much album would almost certainly have featured the same 10 tracks that appeared on Simon’s Hearts and Bones album. Another contender for the album, “Citizen of the Planet,” a folky tune that recalled the duo’s early ‘60s sound, was considered but had certainly been dropped from the album by the summer of 1983. (“Citizen” finally appeared, a decade later, as a Simon and Garfunkel reunion track on the Old Friends concert album.)

The prospect of hearing the Think Too Much album is a tantalizing (if unlikely) prospect. Dan Nash, one of the dozen or so engineers who worked on the album, says, “The entire thing was finished with Artie on it, without a doubt. I have a copy. When Paul made the decision [to make it a solo album], he had Roy Halee make rough mixes of the whole thing.”

According to Nash, all that was missing was some backing vocals, but the lead vocals by Simon and Garfunkel were complete. “If you heard the rough mixes you’d know all it needs is to be mastered.”

However, Nash isn’t sure whether the duo had agreed on whether the lead vocals were supposed to be final or just “scratch” vocals.

Nash feels that the Simon solo version suffered from an attempt to over-compensate for Garfunkel absence. “[Paul] had a clear sense of the structure of the record. But to make the songs sing, he had to come up with musical accoutrements to make it fly. So there were a lot of extra musical parts added—things that were clever, but that weren’t organic.”

In Nash’s opinion, the Simon and Garfunkel version, even in rough-mix form, is “100 times better than the album that came out.”

“I recall, and still have somewhere, the rough mixes of the album with Artie on it,” says Arlen Roth. “He was on almost every song, as I recall, and we were all so excited about this being a true Simon and Garfunkel "reunion" album, as well as a reunion tour! Live, we performed 'Cars are Cars’, ‘Allergies’ and ‘Hearts and Bones’.”

Mark Linett worked briefly on the album in its early stages, at Warner Bros Recording Studios in Los Angeles. At that point, Linett understood the sessions were for a Paul Simon solo album. Garfunkel was at the sessions but in the role of backing vocalist. Another engineer who worked on the album, Jimmy Santis, remembers it as a Simon solo album and doesn’t recall Garfunkel’s involvement being mentioned.

Korte remembers that during his time on the album, only a few songs appeared to have been finished with Garfunkel.

17 years later, the Think Too Much album surely deserves to be dusted off and unleashed in some form, whether it’s finished or not. It seems unlikely that Paul Simon would have much of an appetite for it, and maybe Garfunkel wouldn’t either; but Simon and Garfunkel fans surely deserve the chance to hear it for themselves —especially for all those who caught the duo on their 1983 tour, heard the new songs and were disappointed when the album didn’t come out.

Way Out West

Tuesday 27 July 2010

RIP Ben Keith

Ben Keith: 1937 - 2010
Bridge Benefit Concert 2008
Photo by Craig Abaya

Ben Keith, Neil Young's long time band mate and friend, has passed away. Ben was 73.

Ben Keith, was a multi-talented musician who Neil Young first met in Nashville in February 1971 when Neil was recording the multi-platinum LP Harvest. Legend has it that Neil asked bassist Tim Drummond if he knew any pedal-steel players in town. Tim contacted Ben, who lived in town and off he went to the studio: "I didn't know who anyone was, so I asked, who's that guy over there?" and was told "that's Neil Young".


At Ease Part VI:

Sunday 25 July 2010

Alex Higgins RIP

Alex Higgins

Alex "Hurricane" Higgins, who has died at the age of 61 from throat cancer, was snooker's first television superstar.

At the age of 23, he became world champion at his first attempt. But his violent temper, drunkenness, gambling and drug-taking alienated him from some of his fellow professionals and from the game's authorities.

The fame and adulation were a far cry from Alexander Gordon Higgins' beginnings in Protestant working-class Belfast where he was born on 18 March 1949.

His addiction to snooker began early. By the age of 11 he was hustling at the Jampot, a seedy hall where he developed the speed around the table that earned him his nickname.

He won the Northern Ireland championship in 1968 as an amateur. He turned professional in 1971 and, within a year, he defeated John Spencer in the World Championship when he became the youngest ever winner.

But within weeks he began a 20-year trail of self-destruction, wrecking hotel rooms in Australia and being kicked out of India for drunken behaviour.

These violent, drunken outbursts brought him into frequent conflict with snooker's governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA).

The WPBSA fined him thousands of pounds throughout his career, usually for abusive language and ungentlemanly conduct.

Higgins was an obsessive gambler and was reported to have lost £13,000 on horses in one day.

He admitted to smoking marijuana and using cocaine. His wayward behaviour ended his two marriages, but throughout the 1970s and 1980s he was still drawing the crowds and winning tournaments.

In 1982, he became world champion again by defeating Ray Reardon in the final. He was UK champion in 1983, and won the Irish Masters in the same year and again in 1989.

But by 1990 he was in serious trouble again. After losing in the first round of the World Championships he announced his retirement saying that snooker was the most corrupt game in the world.

On the way to making this announcement, he was alleged to have punched the tournament's press officer in the stomach.

This incident, and a number of others, including a threat to have the Northern Ireland captain Dennis Taylor shot, brought a one-year playing ban.

His playing career never recovered and Higgins continued to slide down the rankings. His closing years on the pro-circuit were spent competing in interminable qualifying rounds for major tournaments with little success.

He developed throat cancer in 1997 but continued to play smaller events in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.

But although his enthusiasm for the game remained, his health and financial welfare began to deteriorate rapidly.

In 2010, Higgins had been in remission from the cancer for almost a decade, but he had undergone several operations and suffered pneumonia and breathing problems earlier in the year.

In May, a charity dinner was held in Manchester in order to raise £20,000 for the snooker legend, who had been living off baby food after losing his teeth as a result of radiotherapy. He attended the event but looked shockingly gaunt.

On Saturday 24 July 2010, Higgins was pronounced dead.

It was a sad end for a man who was often obnoxious and unruly and whose defeats were, in his view, seldom down to him.

Yet, Higgins did as much as anyone to popularise the sport of snooker through his rare talent and undoubted charisma.

Steve Davis once lauded Higgins as "the only true genius snooker ever had".

Higgins was once asked if he wished things had been different in his life.

He replied, "Yes, I could have been a golfer."

See also:

Saturday 24 July 2010

Caravaggio's Bones?

The mystery of Caravaggio's death solved at last – painting killed him
Remains found in Tuscany are likely to be the artist's, proving that lead poisoning was one cause of his death 400 years ago

Tom Kington in Rome
Wednesday 16 June 2010 22.21

He killed a man, brawled constantly, rowed with patrons and fled justice while revolutionising painting with his chiaroscuro style. Now, as if to underline how dramatic Caravaggio's short life was, researchers say he may have quite literally died for his art.

Scientists seeking to shed light on the mysterious death of the Italian artist in 1610 said they are "85% sure" they have found his bones thanks to carbon dating and DNA checks on remains excavated in Tuscany.

Caravaggio's suspected bones come complete with levels of lead high enough to have driven the painter mad and helped finish him off.

"The lead likely came from his paints – he was known to be extremely messy with them," said Silvano Vinceti, the researcher who announced the findings today

"Lead poisoning won't kill you on its own – we believe he had infected wounds and sunstroke too – but it was one of the causes."

Art historians already suspect that Goya and Van Gogh may have suffered from the ill effects of the lead in their paints, which can cause depression, pain and personality changes.

Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio after the Lombardy town where he grew up, was a young man at the height of his career in Rome when he killed a man in a brawl in 1606, fleeing to find new patrons in Naples and then Malta, only to be thrown off the island two years later for more brawling.

"After a fortnight's work he will swagger about for a month or two with a sword at his side and a servant following him, from one ballcourt to the next, ever ready to engage in a fight or an argument," wrote one observer.

In between fights he found time to astound his contemporaries with his shocking realism and use of light and shade – chiaroscuro – although he won no favours with religious authorities in Rome when he reportedly used a famous prostitute as a model for the madonna.

From Malta, Caravaggio moved to Sicily, where his paintings became as dark and shadowy as his worsening moods which prompted him to sleep armed and tear up paintings after any criticism.

Returning to Naples, Caravaggio was the victim of a possible attempt on his life, leaving him with the wounds Vinceti believes became infected and spurring him on to Tuscany were he hoped to obtain a pardon for the Rome murder.

How Caravaggio died there, at 38, has been shrouded in mystery ever since – a blank page that Vinceti and a team of archaeologists and forensic scientists have set out to fill 400 years after his death.

To test existing theories that he died of malaria on a Tuscan beach, was devoured by syphilis, or was murdered by one of his many enemies, the team needed to start by locating Caravaggio's remains, which had never been found.

Vinceti went into action when a document was unearthed suggesting the painter was buried in the tiny San Sebastiano cemetery in Porto Ercole.

Discovering that the site had been built over in 1956, the team headed for the town's municipal cemetery to where the bones had been shifted, turning up nine potential sets.

"Set number five turned out to be from a tall man – Caravaggio was described as such – while tests showed he was between 38 and 40 and died around 1610," said Vinceti.
The remains of Italian painter Caravaggio are presented during a press conference in Ravenna, Italy. Photograph: Enzo Russo/AP

The team's next stop was the town of Caravaggio to compare DNA from the bones with local people. No descendents were found but families with the same surname were traced, giving samples which were 50 to 60% compatible with the bones.

Add in the toxic level of lead in the remains and Vinceti is convinced he has his man, adding to his reputation as Italy's foremost cold case historian, which he won when he dug up the remains of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, a philosopher at the court of the Medicis, to prove he had been poisoned.

Now Vinceti is aiming for Leonardo da Vinci, hoping the custodians of his tomb will let him in to create a facial reconstruction of the Renaissance polymath.

Vinceti's press conference today at which a purported fragment of Caravaggio's skull was displayed on a silk red cushion could not have been better timed.

Shunned after his death before coming to be recognised as one of the fathers of modern painting, an exhibition of Caravaggio's work at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome this year celebrating the 400th anniversary of his death attracted 580,000 visitors.

Last I heard, Andrew Graham-Dixon wasn't having any of this...

Songs For Swingin' Lovers

While Kelly and Henderson edured one of their many separations in 1957, Capitol Records tried to cash in on Frank Sinatra's success by marketing Kelly as a singer in the Sinatra/Crosby mode. The album was a moderate hit in Holland, but tanked elsewhere. Arranger Nelson Riddle believed this was due to the fact it was recorded after an extended drinking session at The Forth.

Henderson and ... Ravenscroft?

It could have been all so different. Henderson and Kelly reuinte with Ian Ravenscroft, who fans of the duo will surely recall was Henderson's original partner in the successful musical comedy double act, Henderson and Ravenscroft, which took the world by storm from 1920 to 1928.

The following year, while touring with an off-off-off-Broadway musical version of Desire Under the Elms in Buenos Aires, Ravenscroft was stricken with malaria. Showing characteristic compassion, loyalty and financial impecunity, Henderson vowed to stay with him in the city while the show went ahead without them both - until that fateful evening two weeks later when he visited a nightclub and saw a down-on-his-luck comedian, Paul Kelly, stumbling through his act.

Henderson explained: "I felt sorry for the guy. There he was on stage, a quivering wreck in a white linen suit, clutching his pint of beer close to his chest as if it was his only friend. I knew he was just a step away from blowing up balloons and twisting them into shapes resembling popular political leaders of the day, but I could see he definitely had talent. I mean, he was only young. Still is. I thought I could nurture him, train him, develop him. Remake him in my own image, if you like. Mind you, at the time, I had no plans to ditch my old partner; I figured I could make some dough managing this Kelly guy, but once I told him the audience could only understand Spanish, everything seemed to click. He invited me up on stage with him and after sharing a buck and wing and a few dirty jokes about Clara Bow, we really connected; it was like we were related or something."

Ravenscroft still remembers the night Henderson brought Kelly to the hospital to say goodbye. "I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. That white suit made him look like an angel... then he put his arm around Jimmy and they left the room. The fucker. Next thing I know, they're the toast of Broadway, London and Paris and they're making movies for Hal Roach. Hal bloody Roach! I could only get a booking at Glasgow Empire understudying Derek Guyler in Charlie's Aunt! And let me tell you, the audiences were cold up there. Guyler told a blue joke about the Battle of the Boyne and we had to escape out of the toilet window. They still owe me ten bob and a Clark's brogue, size 10, which I lost when some woman grabbed my leg."

Today, Ravenscroft stresses he isn't bitter, although if you ever see him, he'd like you to buy him one.

Mo Mowlam in Summerhill Terrace


The star in a not-so-reasonably-priced car...

Candid Camera - with Woody Allen

Friday 23 July 2010

I hear you singin' in the wire

A sordid night of bliss... (one for you,Terry)

Alone in the pale moonlight...

Nothing to show but more blues...

She rode the waves on her red surfboard...

Buffy Sainte-Marie at the Sage, Gateshead

By Terry Kelly
03 February 2010

BUFFY Sainte-Marie is a living embodiment of the power of song.
Now in her late 60s, the Canadian-born singer and songwriter performs with all the energy and commitment of someone half her age.

Bounding about the stage as though it was her first gig, it's easy to forget that Sainte-Marie has been part of the fabric of folk music for more than 40 years.

Born on a Cree reservation, her music is infused with the culture of native Indians, including her famous soundtrack song, Soldier Blue.

Backed by a sharp, three-piece band, she trawled her extensive back catalogue of hits, much-covered songs and album tracks.

The appreciative audience were treated to a beautiful version of Up Where We Belong, which gave Sainte-Marie an international platform as a writer when it was a huge hit for Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes.

Another popular music standard was Until It's Time for You to Go, which has been covered by numerous top artists, including Elvis Presley.

A multi-instrumentalist, Sainte-Marie also performed the old folk standard Cripple Creek, on a mouth bow.

The Canadian-born songstress moved easily between guitar and keyboards, revealing her musical versatility.

But her passions extend beyond music, with Sainte-Marie's songs reflecting her deep concern for the natural environment.

Strapping on her acoustic guitar for her protest standard, The Universal Soldier – made popular in the UK by Donovan in the 60s – she also demonstrated her pacifist instincts.

The audience rose to their feet at the end of the concert to applaud a performer who simply improves with age.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Tonight's set list

At The Habit, York: -

Human Highway
Give Me Strength
Tennessee Waltz
Love Song
Only Love Can Break Your Heart

An eclectic mix of turns tonight, including a poet. Someone even did Nutbush City Limits.

The Path of Life

Two old soaks walking down the path of life. Or are they just looking for a pub in Corbridge? Or is that the same thing and have they found their version of paradise? Or does that involve naked people playing volleyball? Answers on my desk by 9 a.m. Monday in 25 dirty words or less. Teacher's decision is final.

African-American-loving lunatic fringe socialist of questionable American heritage

Now let's see who does irony...