Sunday 31 March 2013

Phil Ramone RIP

Phil Ramone and Paul Simon with their Grammy Awards for Still Crazy After All These Years in 1976

Phil Ramone, Producer for Music’s Biggest Stars, Dies at 79

Published: March 30, 2013

Phil Ramone, a prolific record producer and engineer who worked with some of the biggest music stars of the last 50 years, including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Billy Joel and Barbra Streisand, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 79. Though it was widely reported that he was 72, public records and his family confirm that he was born Jan. 5, 1934.*

His death was confirmed by his son Matthew. He did not immediately give the cause, but Mr. Ramone was reported to have been admitted to a Manhattan hospital in late February for treatment of an aortic aneurysm.

In his 2007 memoir, “Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music,” written with Charles L. Granata, Mr. Ramone defined the role of record producer as roughly equivalent to that of a film director, creating and managing an environment in which to coax the best work out of his

“But, unlike a director (who is visible, and often a celebrity in his own right), the record producer toils in anonymity,” he wrote. “We ply our craft deep into the night, behind locked doors. And with few exceptions, the fruit of our labor is seldom launched with the glitzy fanfare of a Hollywood premiere.”

Mr. Ramone’s career was one of those exceptions. He was a trusted craftsman and confidant in the industry who was also one of the handful of producers widely known to the public. He won 14 Grammy Awards, including producer of the year, nonclassical, in 1981, and three for album of the year, for Mr. Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” in 1976, Mr. Joel’s “52nd Street” in 1980, and Mr. Charles’s duets album, “Genius Loves Company,” in 2005. He also produced music for television and film, winning an Emmy Award as the sound mixer for a 1973 special on CBS, “Duke Ellington ... We Love You Madly.”

Mr. Ramone was born in South Africa and grew up in Brooklyn. His father died when he was young, and his mother worked in a department store. A classical violin prodigy, he studied at the Juilliard School but soon drifted toward jazz and pop, and apprenticed at a recording studio, J.A.C. Recording.

In 1958, he co-founded A & R Recording, a studio on West 48th Street in Manhattan, and built a reputation as a versatile engineer, working on pop fare like Lesley Gore as well as jazz by John Coltrane and Quincy Jones. He ran the sound when Marilyn Monroe cooed “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and three years later won his first Grammy as the engineer on Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s landmark album “Getz/Gilberto.”

As a producer, he had a particularly close association with Mr. Joel and Mr. Simon; the back cover of Mr. Joel’s 1977 album “The Stranger” features a photograph of Mr. Ramone posing with Mr. Joel and his band at a New York restaurant.

“I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band,” Mr. Joel said in a statement on Saturday. “He was the guy that no one ever, ever saw onstage. He was with me as long as any of the musicians I ever played with — longer than most. So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him.”

Mr. Ramone’s relationships with those men were deep enough that he named two of his sons after them: Simon and William (known as B. J.); they survive him, along with Matthew, his third son, and his wife, Karen.

As a producer, Mr. Ramone was known for a conservative sound rooted in jazz and traditional pop, and in later years his biggest successes included albums with Mr. Charles, Tony Bennett, Elton John and others.

But he was also a proponent of new technologies. He was an early advocate for digital recording, and pushed for Mr. Joel’s “52nd Street” to be one of the first commercially released albums on compact disc, in 1982. Mr. Sinatra’s 1993 album “Duets,” featuring stars like Bono, Ms. Streisand and Natalie Cole, was made by connecting Mr. Sinatra’s studio in Los Angeles with others around the world using fiber-optic cables.

In an interview with Billboard magazine in 1996, Mr. Ramone explained why he believed a producer should not leave too much of his “stamp” on a recording.

“If our names were on the front cover, it’d be different, but it’s not on the front cover, and the audience doesn’t care,” he said. “If you think you have a style and you perpetrate that onto people, you’re hurting the very essence of their creativity.”

“The reward of producing,” he continued, “comes when somebody inside the record company who has a lot to do with what’s going on actually calls you and says, ‘Boy, this record really came out great.’ Or when other artists call you and want to work with you.”

*The Los Angeles Times obit has his age as 82! See:

Friday 29 March 2013

Paul Williams RIP

Paul Williams, Crawdaddy Founder, 'Godfather of Rock Criticism'  Dead at 64
Paul Williams, Crawdaddy Founder, 'Godfather of Rock Criticism' Dead at 64

By Andrew Flanagan
March 28, 2013 

Paul Williams, the writer and editor who helped create what we now know as rock journalism with Crawdaddy!, a magazine he founded in 1966, died last night at the age of 64 from complications related to a 1995 bike accident.

Williams began publishing Crawdaddy! at the age of 17, following his earlier work publishing science fiction fanzines -- as Johan Kugelberg stresses on Williams' website, "science-fiction fandom roots… all rock fanzines and of rock fandom." Williams continued to publish and grow Crawdaddy! for two years, printing the early work of influential writers such as Sandy Pearlman and Jon Landau; the former would go on to produce The Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope, while the latter of whom would go on to manage and produce Bruce Springsteen.

REM's Peter Buck on Paul Williams' site described his writing thusly: "His writing was very conversational and fan oriented, in the sense that he was a fan. He wasn't reviewing records he didn't like because he got the assignment from some guy in an office. The passion was always there. You could tell that Paul was someone who wrote about things that he actually cared about."

In its two-to-three-year run (as Williams described it), the magazine's distribution went from 500 copies to 25,000 and could count among its fans Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Luc Sante.

Following the initial success of Crawdaddy!, Williams closed up shop in New York and moved to Mendocino, Calif. where he traveled with Timothy Leary and "ended up at John and Yoko's Bed-In for Peace in Montreal." It was also around this time that Williams struck up a friendship with the influential science fiction author Philip K. Dick, a relationship that continued after Dick's death, when Williams was named his literary executor. Williams is credited with helping to secure Dick's literary legacy.

Williams' wife, singer/songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, made a short post to Facebook on Williams' death: "Rock-writer Paul S Williams, author and creator of CRAWDADDY magazine, (and my husband), passed away last night 10:30pm PST while his oldest son was holding his hand and by his side. It was a gentle and peaceful passing."

What follows is the introduction that Williams wrote to the first issue of Crawdaddy, dated February 7th, 1966 (which preceded Rolling Stone, by a full 18 months). The initial two-year run of Crawdaddy! can be read and enjoyed here.

"You are looking at the first issue of a magazine of rock and roll criticism. Crawdaddy will feature neither pin-ups nor news-briefs; the speciality of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music. Billboard, Cash Box, etc., serve very well as trade news magazines; but their idea of a review is a hard-driving rhythm number that should spiral rapidly up the charts just as (previous hit by the same group) slides.

"Crawdaddy believes that someone in the United States might be interested in what others have to say about the music they like."

Williams went on to pen more than 25 books, including the three-part "Bob Dylan: Performing Artist," "Outlaw Blues," and "Das Energi."

He revived and ran Crawdaddy between 1993 and 2003 before selling it to Wolfgang's Vault in 2006.

Pioneering rock journalist Paul Williams dies at 64

Steve Pond
28 March 2013

Paul Williams, a pioneering music journalist who started the first magazine devoted to rock 'n' roll criticism, died on Wednesday in Southern California. He was 64.

Williams was the founder of Crawdaddy! magazine and the author of more than two dozen books about music, popular culture and new-age philosophy. He died of complications related to Alzheimer's, which came on after he suffered a brain injury in a 1995 bicycle accident.

Williams was a 17-year-old student at Swarthmore College when he launched Crawdaddy in 1966. At a time when the mainstream media looked askance at rock music and the only magazines devoted to the sound were teeny-bopper publications like Tiger Beat, Williams wrote in the first issue that his goal was "neither pinups nor news briefs" but "intelligent writing about pop music."

"Paul was the first to write about rock music seriously," singer-songwriter Mojo Nixon told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009, when he participated in a benefit to raise money for Williams' medical expenses. "Most pop music was meaningless fluff, but Paul realized that something else was going on there."

Crawdaddy!, whose early writers included Jon Landau and Richard Meltzer, predated Rolling Stone, which Jann Wenner launched in 1967 after meeting with Williams. Williams left Crawdaddy! in 1968, but relaunched it in 1993 as a subscription-only newsletter.

In addition to his work with the magazine, Williams wrote for a number of other publications, including Rolling Stone, for which he interviewed the seminal science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick in 1974. Williams became friends with the author and served as the executor of Dick's literary estate after the writer's death in 1982.

He also took on tasks as disparate as volunteer firefighter and campaign manager for Timothy Leary's run for California governor.

Williams' books include "Outlaw Blues," "Das Energi," and a number of works on Bob Dylan -- including "Dylan -- What Happened?" about the singer's 1979 conversion to Christianity. After the book's publication, Dylan's office reportedly ordered 114 copies so the singer could give them to friends.

Williams suffered an accident riding his bicycle in 1995, and was hospitalized for a month with a brain injury. He recovered, but later began to show signs of dementia. His wife, singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, put him in a managed-care facility in Encinitas, California., in 2008.

On Sunday, three days before his death, a one-day celebration of Williams' life was held at the Boo-Hooray Gallery in New York City, with music provided by Berryhill and Lenny Kaye.

According to a Facebook post by Berryhill, Williams died on Wednesday night in the company of his oldest son.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Last night's set list

At The Habit, York (The Elderly Brothers): -

Things We Said Today
Needles And Pins
Crying In The Rain
You're Going To Lose That Girl
You're Sixteen
To Know You Is To Love You
Love Hurts

Some great music from our host Mark Wynn (new CD released at the gig - thanks Mark), the completely bananas Completely Bananas, the wonderful Boss Caine/Dan Lucas and bluesman extraordinaire Colin Rowntree. The Elderlys got a good run for their money - not often we get a 7-song set!

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Last night's set list

At the Fulford Arms, York: -

The Old Laughing Lady
Don't Let It Bring You Down
Love The One You're With
I Don't Want To Talk About It

An eclectic crowd of punters and players. All together a most enjoyable evening. Plucked out some songs I haven't played for a while and a first for me with Love The One You're With.

Monday 25 March 2013

Paul Muldoon - Put Me Down

Put Me Down

I want to be the transport ship
From which we both lift off
I want to be the cartridge clip
In your Kalashnikov
I want to play war games in which
We get to use live rounds
And though you've left me for dead in a ditch
At least you've put me down
Put me down put me down
At least you've put me down

I want to be the rifle butt
You hold close to your breast
I don't care if your comments cut
Right through my Kevlar vest
I want to be within your scope
Should your remarks rebound
I guess I'm still hoping against hope
You won't just put it down
Put it down put it down
You won't just put it down

To my being on tenterhooks
Whenever you're around
I want to be the instruction book
You simply can't put down
Put down my love put down
The manual you can't put down

I want to be the haversack
That hangs about your neck
I'd follow you to hell and back
From this same helideck
I want to be the smoke that clears
Above the battleground
When the cry goes up for volunteers
I trust you'll put me down
Put me down put me down
I trust you'll put me down

Paul Muldoon

The Word on the Street: Rock Lyrics
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Sunday 24 March 2013

Captain Peacock RIP

Frank Thornton obituary
Actor best known as the haughty department store supervisor Captain Peacock in the TV comedy Are You Being Served?

Carole Woddis
The Guardian
Monday 18 March 2013

The actor Frank Thornton, who has died aged 92, had a flair for comedy derived from the subtle craftsmanship of classical stage work. However, he will be best remembered for his longstanding characters in two popular BBC television comedy series – the sniffily priggish Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served? and the pompous retired policeman Herbert "Truly" Truelove, in Roy Clarke's Last of the Summer Wine.

Robertson Hare, the great Whitehall farceur, told him: "You'll never do any good until you're 40." And, said Thornton, "he was quite right." In the event, he was 51 when David Croft, producer of another long-running British staple, Dad's Army, remembered the tall, long-faced actor from another engagement and decided to cast him as the dapper floor-walker in charge of shop assistants played by Mollie Sugden, Wendy Richard, Trevor Bannister and John Inman in the Grace Brothers department store of Are You Being Served? (1973‑85). Thornton's latter-day Malvolio, all pinstripes and impassive disdain, proved a perfect antithesis to the general air of jobsworthy incompetence and smutty innuendo.

Captain Peacock was ideal casting for Thornton, who went on to appear in all 10 series. For when it came to a sense of the punctilious, the right way to do things, Thornton was your man.

In later life, he came to lament his own typecasting, feeling it had limited his chance to play more heavyweight roles. But his deadpan manner and ability to play the straight man gave him a career that extended for more than seven decades from a debut in 1940.

It was Thornton's understated but exquisite sense of timing that marked him out and gave him his durability, something that the writer-director Ray Cooney put down to his early years in weekly repertory, where over a period of three years "you'd get through 150 plays. It steeped you in character work."

He recalled Thornton's ability to hold his ground in the most trying circumstances, citing an instance in the 1993 run of his West End farce It Runs in the Family. With the rest of the cast "corpsing" around him, Thornton, solid as a rock, and the foil for the surrounding mayhem, resisted by a desperate working of his eyebrows before finally succumbing "with tears pouring down his face". He was, says Cooney, the epitome of professionalism.

Born Frank Thornton Ball in Dulwich, south-east London, he was educated at Alleyn's school. He knew he wanted to be an actor from about the age of five, but first became an insurance clerk, taking drama classes at night at the London School of Dramatic Art. As a child, he described himself as "a bit of a loner, not one of the lads. I think I was probably a bit of a prig because I seem to have been stuck with this supercilious persona for as long as I can remember."

From his first professional appearance, in Terence Rattigan's French Without Tears in Co Tipperary, he swiftly graduated to companies led by the actor-managers Donald Wolfit – where he met his future wife, Beryl Evans – and John Gielgud. After reaching the West End and appearing in the first production of Rattigan's Flare Path in 1942, Thornton then spent four years in the real RAF.

After demob, he divided his time between repertory and the West End before his television comedy career took off in 1960 with Michael Bentine's frenetic It's a Square World. Regular appearances followed alongside such comic greats as Tony Hancock (including the celebrated Hancock's Half Hour episode, The Blood Donor), Benny Hill, Eric Sykes, Ronnie Corbett and even Kenny Everett, on whose show he memorably appeared attired as a punk rocker.

But he also continued to work in the theatre. His air of lugubriousness served him well as a "grey-faced, bug-eyed" Eeyore (as one review put it), in an adaptation of Winnie the Pooh at the Phoenix theatre, London, in the early 1970s.

In 1980, he and Gwen Nelson were the old couple in Eugène Ionesco's absurdist drama The Chairs for the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and played Gremio in Jonathan Miller's TV version of The Taming of the Shrew. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he could be seen in the West End and elsewhere in classic revivals: Cooney farces, and musicals such as Me and My Girl (1984), Spread a Little Happiness (1992) and three of the Barbican's Lost Musicals series, Music in the Air (1993), the Gershwins' Strike Up the Band (1994) and Take Me Along (1995).

The reality TV court show got its comeuppance with the spoof version All Rise for Julian Clary (1996-97) in which Thornton supplied the necessary token gravitas. When his turn came for This Is Your Life in 1998, Clary responded with a glowing compliment: "I'm here, Frank, to tell the world what we all know, what a funny, amusing and very handsome man you are." By then Thornton had succeeded Michael Bates, Brian Wilde and Michael Aldridge in leading the exploits of the trio at the heart of Last of the Summer Wine: his tenure lasted from 1997 till the series came to a close in 2010.

Thornton had more than 60 film credits, including Victim (1961), The Dock Brief (1962), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (with Zero Mostel, 1966), A Flea in Her Ear (with Rex Harrison, 1968), The Bed Sitting Room (1969), The Old Curiosity Shop (1995) and Gosford Park (2001), as well as the Disney TV adaptation of Great Expectations (1991). His last appearance came in the 2012 film version of Run for Your Wife.

He is survived by Beryl, whom he married in 1945; a daughter, Jane; and three grandsons.

• Frank Thornton (Ball), actor, born 15 January 1921; died 16 March 2013

Saturday 23 March 2013

The Orchid House Project - Walk the Wire

The song is about a high wire walk between the Twin Towers. Filmed by Paul Kelly (Friday Night Boys) and edited by Charlie Hedley in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Now available in online stores.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York (both by the Elderly Brothers): -

Set 1: -
Things We Said Today
True Love Ways
You're Sixteen
Crying In The Rain

Set 2: -
The Price Of Love
Things We Said Today*
Let It Be Me
Bye Bye Love

A very enjoyable night at The Habit. Not exactly heaving, but well attended all the same. Went on first (after our mercurial host Mr Mark Wynn) and were later invited to close the proceedings when rather over-refreshed. Mark asked us to reprise Things We Said Today* as he had been playing said track (by the Fab Four) only that morning.

Some wonderful turns as ever, including Dan Lucas (who recently performed on 'Whispering' Bob Harris's radio show) and the evergreen duo Completely Bananas.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Oysterity: a poem for the budget - by Sean O'Brien

Blah about "society"
And what we should give back –
The matter just kept coming up
All evening at the table:
A lot to swallow while we spoke
Of national austerity,
Of Cameron and Cable
And the coalition-claque.
So is it better out than in?
Purge the nation till it pukes
And purge us all of sin?
We went in for the oysters
We might never eat again,
Went for snot and shell-clack
As something to remember
In the times when fare is plainer:
The day will come when you no longer
Cash your cheques at Coutts.
Eat, be merry, sympathise,
But meanwhile fill your boots.
The truth hates a dissembler.
Then and there, what could we do?
It seemed like a no-brainer.
So we set about the oysters
In an orgy of the vowels,
Giving no thought to the morrow
Nor any to the bowels.
We were the slaves of history
But we ate in affirmation –
Bear the glut of privilege
Then stand with the protesters.
And write about it later –
Ah, the pleasures of the text.
(Not to mention of the oysters.)
You're a poet, you're a seer,
So you're out there on the edge,
And you're all imagination
So you know what's coming next.
In the middle of the night
I knew I must return my share
To the stripped bed of the sea –
A long-term contribution
To sustainability.
I took the long view of the sink
Which was taking it from me –
Rose madder of unknown origin
Among the usual stuff.
I had to work to clear its gaze:
But it would neither wink nor blink.
Whatever I'd been served,
It left me badger-rough,
Eye-deep among the heaving stink,
Crouching, eyeing narrowly
The sink's own non-committal eye.
What did it mean? Just then it meant
I'd got what I deserved,
And all in all I'd rather die
Than go on paying back
The bellyful of slime
And glop and bladderwrack
It seemed I had ingested
With the spiced-up Amble oysters.
This government would make you sick!
I'd heard a neighbour say.
He took of glug of oyster, adding:
Their recipe's untested.
They've got us eating cack.
I took his point, for there was much
Too much to take in then and there,
So much that should, but as it proved,
Could never be digested.
Perhaps if I had cut my throat,
For in my guts I felt that's what
These policies suggested,
I should have spared myself the pain
Of picking through my entrails,
Learning that what's true for one
Who's disembowelled, disinvested,
Is also true for nations –
All remedies are poisonous
And even nations fail.
The oyster's aphrodisiac
May also steal your thunder.
Such ambiguous creations!
Then be charitable: give
A bit back when you chunder.
Anyway, I've had it now
With molluscs, and with seaweed
And with overpriced crustaceans.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

George Catlin at the National Portrait Gallery...

A selection from the National Portrait
Gallery's 'George Catlin: American Indian Portraits' exhibition
George Catlin: American Indian Portraits, at National Portrait Gallery
An enthralling show of George Catlin’s portraits of endangered American Indians in the 19th-century

By Andrew Graham-Dixon
08 Mar 2013

In 1830, under the rapaciously expansionist presidency of Andrew Jackson, American Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. Native American tribes were forced ever westwards and those who resisted were killed or forcibly removed from their lands.
An enterprising painter from Philadelphia called George Catlin set out to record what he believed to be a noble but vanishing race. The hundreds of pictures that he painted, at the frontier and in the wilds, have long been prize possessions of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and a generous selection has been loaned for an enthralling new exhibition.
George Catlin: American Indian Portraits explores a figure who was painter, philanthropist and showman rolled into one; and it movingly reconstructs his most ambitious project.
In 1832 Catlin boarded the steamboat Yellow Stone, bound for Fort Union, a trading post close to what is now the Montana-North Dakota border. He painted the Blackfoot, the Crows and others who traded there, warily, with the white man. He travelled to the Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, to paint captive chiefs.
Black Hawk, Prominent Sac Chief is one of the most powerful American portraits: against a cursorily painted sky full of stormclouds, a highly articulate American Indian leader, dressed in his tribal robes and jewellery, stares into the distance with an expression of concern on his gentle, dignified, finely lined face.
He might be thinking the regretful thoughts that punctuate the autobiography he dictated a year later: “Why did the Great Spirit ever send the whites to this island to drive us from our homes and introduce among us poison liquors, disease and death? They should have remained in the land the Great Spirit allotted them...”
Catlin was no dispassionate observer. His “Indian Gallery” was both a record and a lament. While John James Audubon, in The Birds of America, recorded the many colourful species rendered extinct by the “murderous white man”, Catlin counted the human cost: tribes who have now entirely disappeared, with their clothes, hairstyles, weapons and plumage.
Prone to romantic ideas about the “Noble Savage”, Catlin improbably idealised Native American Indians as living reincarnations of the ancient Greeks: men “whose daily feats with their naked limbs, might vie with those of the Grecian youths in the Olympian games.” He may have sentimentalised them, but he also respected them.
At a time when most anthropologists imagined that Native Americans represented an inferior, primitive form of humanity, Catlin was unusually enlightened. He painted the many peoples he encountered, on his first trip and three subsequent journeys, not as grotesque curiosities, but as dignified and proud human beings with a complicated past and uncertain future.
He was limited by his training as a painter of miniatures, which meant that he never mastered anatomical drawing. Hence the boneless arms and legs of his sitters, and their unconvincing proportions. But those very weaknesses draw the eye to his greatest strength: a subtle ability to capture the human face with true fellow feeling.
Catlin toured his work round Europe with a group of American Indians who danced for Queen Victoria and other rulers. Two of his finest portraits, Buffalo Bull’s Back Fat, Head Chief, Blood Tribe and Little Wolf, A Famous Warrior, were shown at the Paris Salon; Charles Baudelaire thought them “masterly”.
The whole Indian Gallery, all eight tons of it, comprising myriad paintings and such artefacts as a seven-foot-high teepee, was installed in London at Bullock’s Egyptian Hall in 1840: “500 portraits, dresses, scalps, wigwams!” proclaimed the flyers. “Roll up! Roll up! Admission, one shilling”.
It all went wrong. Not enough people came, and expenses far outweighed revenues. After a spell in debtor’s prison and years of fruitless madcappery – such as prospecting for gold in Brazil – the artist died penniless. But that’s another story. For now, the Catlin show is back in town. This time, entirely free.

To June 23. Free entry;

George Catlin: American Indian Portraits

During the 1830s Pennsylvanian-born artist George Catlin (1796-1872) made five trips to the western United States to document the Native American peoples and their way of life. The resulting portraits have become one of the most extensive, evocative and important records of indigenous peoples ever made.
Catlin was also an entrepreneur and a showman and, inspired by his encounters, he created an ‘Indian Gallery’ that toured America and Europe during the next ten years. This exhibition of over fifty portraits will be the first time that they have been seen together outside America since returning there in the 1850s. They will be displayed to suggest the sense of spectacle created by Catlin and demonstrate how he constructed a particular image of American Indians in the minds of his audience.

Organised in collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington

7 March - 23 June 2013
Admission Free

Monday 18 March 2013

Graham Parker

Graham Parker: Don't Ask Me Questions

Before there was punk, before there was new wave and before there was Elvis Costello, there was Graham Parker and his incendiary band the Rumour, rooted in traditional r 'n' b and rock 'n' roll forms but with a vitriolic lyrical edge that demanded to be heard.

Forming the Rumour in 1975, Parker came from Camberley where, amongst many other things, he'd been a petrol pump attendant. The Rumour included many of the cream of the pub rock scene including guitarists Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont, formerly of Ducks DeLuxe. Deemed too edgy for the mid 1970s music scene and too traditional for the ensuing punk wave that they helped spark, they were a band born out of time. After five years of international critical acclaim but moderate sales, the band broke up.

In the intervening years Parker transformed as an artist into a kind of troubadour based in upstate New York, playing to his base of cult fans and having the occasional brush with success. The other members lived their lives in quiet contentment, but always wondering how their lives may have unfolded if they had shared the success of artists who were inspired by them and eventually eclipsed them.

In the summer of 2011, on a whim, they reunited to record an album of new Graham Parker songs. In the same summer, as fate would have it, long-time Graham Parker and the Rumour fan, director Judd Apatow cast the band to play themselves in his film This is Forty. The reunion and high level of exposure caused the band, now all in their sixties, to assess their lives, the notion of success and the meaning of true happiness.

This film, ten years in the making, documents these events and offers a heartfelt look at the lives of all the members focusing on the elusive recluse lead singer and songwriter Graham Parker. Contributions come from the Rumour, Bruce Springsteen, Nick Lowe and, of course, Parker himself.

Available on BBC iPlayer until2:39AM Mon, 25 Mar 2013:

Sunday 17 March 2013

Saturday 16 March 2013

Men of the Tyne

Footage from the show at the Blyth Phoenix on 7th Feb 2013.

Keith Crombie's Jazz Café Clear-out!

Boxes and beer crates full of books, records and CDs were taken away from the Jazz Cafe yesterday by helpers from the nearby Town Wall pub
Keith Crombie's sisters in Newcastle's Jazz Cafe clear-out
Keith Crombie’s sisters were given access to Newcastle’s Jazz Cafe yesterday, almost three months after he passed away

Joanne Butcher
7 March 2013

Mountains of books, records and CDs lay piled on the pavement as the family of Keith Crombie began the big clear-out.

Keith’s sisters were given access to Newcastle’s Jazz Cafe yesterday, almost three months after he passed away.

The Pink Lane venue – which Keith ran for over 20 years – is piled high with the music lover’s lifetime collections.

A team of helpers from the nearby Town Wall pub carried out beer crate after beer crate stuffed with thousands of vinyl records, CDs, books, videos and art-deco pictures.

Each item was recorded before being loaded into a removal van.

Sisters Janet Walmsley and Valerie Crombie said they were trying to empty the three-storey building within a six-hour slot.

As previously reported, landlord Mike Tilley, of the nearby Newcastle Arts Centre, changed the locks shortly after Mr Crombie’s death in December to make the building secure. CCTV cameras have also been installed inside.

“We made an inventory on Tuesday and now we are trying to clear it,” said Janet. “There is a lot to do.”

Valerie added: “He had a large collection – he was 73 after all. We couldn’t do it without the help of these men.”

Seaham-born Mr Crombie died on December 29 after being admitted to the city’s RVI with a lung infection on Boxing Day.

At his funeral, mourners bade a final farewell as they followed his coffin through the streets in a New Orleans-style send-off. A possession notice appeared on the Jazz Cafe’s doors saying the locks had been changed at the start of January and the venue, a favourite for local music lovers and visiting performers alike, has remained closed since.

Regulars have set up the Pink Lane Jazz Co-op to try to reopen it and keep it running in the same spirit.

Currently they are running jazz nights at alternative venues, including The Star Inn on Westgate Road and No 28 on Nelson St, and have met with Mr Tilley to discuss the possibility of taking over the lease.

Mr Tilley previously told the Chronicle he was keen to see the building re-open as a live music venue but it would need extensive refurbishment to bring it up to modern standards.

He confirmed discussions were moving forward in a positive way.

“We had a very useful discussion about the way forward with the group,” he told the Chronicle.

“They want to see jazz happening there again.”

He added: “The family initially asked for a four-hour slot to clear the cafe of items which belong to Mr Crombie’s estate.

“They had a day on Tuesday to do the inventory and yesterday they were picking them up.

“The items are being recorded because we are in a difficult situation at the moment and we don’t want any future disputes.”

If you are interested in joining the co-operative, you can email pinklane

Friday 15 March 2013

Norman Collier RIP

Comedian Norman Collier, best known for his faulty microphone act, has died at the age of 87, his daughter confirmed. Collier, who had Parkinson's disease and was living in a nursing home near his hometown of Hull, died on Thursday.

After serving as a gunner in World War II, he worked as a labourer but turned to comedy in 1950 after a one-off stint at his local Perth Street Social Club. He quickly drew a popular following on the northern club circuit, but it was his debut at the 1971 Royal Variety Performance that brought him to wider attention.

"Unknown comedian Norman Collier won a standing ovation for his act in the Royal Variety Show," wrote the Daily Express, of his critically acclaimed turn.

"Norman turned out to be one of the big successes of this year's Royal Knees-up," added the Daily Mirror.

Collier went on to make regular appearances on television and at theatres across the UK in the 1970s and 80s, and is arguably best remembered for his act featuring an intermittently working microphone - and his chicken impression.

He was also a frequent pantomime performer, notably playing Widow Twanky opposite Little and Large at Hull's New Theatre in Aladdin.

He never moved to London - despite the lure of fame - preferring to stay in the local area surrounded by his family. He told the BBC in 2009 he had "no regrets".

He leaves a wife, Lucy, to whom he was married for more than 60 years, three children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

His friend and biographer Mike Ulyatt recalled a meeting between Collier and Eric Sykes, in which Sykes commented "we are the last of the Vaudevillians in this country".

"How I wished I had recorded their conversation over lunch that day. It took me over two years to complete Norman's life story, he would go off at such tangents at our numerous meetings," added Mr Ulyatt.

"He was a local lad who never wanted to move from East Yorkshire and a real family man. He often said to me ' All I ever wanted to do was make people laugh'.

"His good friend Bernie Clifton got him a copy of the 1971 Royal Command performance and Norman could never remember what the Queen said to him afterwards but on the recording they talked like long lost friends!