Monday 29 April 2013

Last night's set list

At the Queen Vic, Roker: -

I Don't Want To Talk About It
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Mind Your Own Business

The Paul Jackson Musicians & Buskers Night is up and running once more following a fallow period since the days of The Big Jug, Durham. Some excellent turns including Tony Bengtsson, who will be presenting his new band at The Cumberland Arms on 6th June.

Woody Allen interviews William F. Buckley

Sunday 28 April 2013

A Man About Town

Paul Muldoon - The Word on the Street review

The Word on the Street by Paul Muldoon – review
Muldoon's exploration of the connection between poetry and song results in pieces that fall somewhere between the two

Adam Newey
The Guardian
Friday 26 April 2013

Here we go, one more time, with feeling – the old song/poetry debate comes roaring back to life, courtesy of Paul Muldoon. Back in the 1990s, Christopher Ricks stirred it up by applying the techniques of academic literary criticism to the study of Bob Dylan's songs. Paul McCartney has had lyrics published by a leading poetry imprint (Faber), and Tom Waits has recently put out a volume of verse. Last year, Glyn Maxwell argued that it's essentially a sterile debate, with a simple answer: "Bob Dylan and John Keats are at different work. It would be nice never to be asked about this again."

Muldoon used his 2012 Poetry Society lecture – which shares a title with this new collection – to argue for a reconnection between poetry and song. Fair enough: there's a reason why songs have "lyrics"; if you're a bard in antiquity you pluck your lyre and you sing your poem. That shared tradition is by no means confined to the distant past, either – listen, for instance, to Eddi Reader singing Robert Burns, or, indeed, to Muldoon himself performing with his band (or "music collective", as the blurb for this book describes them), Wayside Shrines.

So there's something of an agenda here; though, as Muldoon admitted in these pages recently, he's well aware of the difficulties it raises: "The tradition of reading lyrics on a page is a little bit iffy. Some of us of a certain age will remember lyrics on album sleeves … One took them somewhat seriously, but maybe not completely seriously. I'm a bit conflicted myself." Nonetheless, the project is carried through with typical Muldoonian vim and gusto, from the book's non-standard format (essentially the same proportions as a CD case), to the subtitle on the title page ("Rock Lyrics"), to the blocky, stencil‑style sans font used for the contents (I want to say "track listing"). Curiously, it lends the book something of a country and western feel.

The words, though, are a different matter. Like some post-punk, blues-inflected Cole Porter, Muldoon adopts the manoeuvres of the standard song lyric to access the sort of territory where most mainstream song-writing rarely, if ever, ventures: war in Afghanistan, the US housing bubble, the west's over-reliance on the oil industry, and so on. "Badass Blues", for instance, brings together Charlton Heston, the Jewish crime kingpin Arnold Rothstein, TS Eliot and Albert Einstein, and ends up in Tahrir Square for the Egyptian revolution.So there's something of an agenda here; though, as Muldoon admitted in these pages recently, he's well aware of the difficulties it raises: "The tradition of reading lyrics on a page is a little bit iffy. Some of us of a certain age will remember lyrics on album sleeves … One took them somewhat seriously, but maybe not completely seriously. I'm a bit conflicted myself." Nonetheless, the project is carried through with typical Muldoonian vim and gusto, from the book's non-standard format (essentially the same proportions as a CD case), to the subtitle on the title page ("Rock Lyrics"), to the blocky, stencil‑style sans font used for the contents (I want to say "track listing"). Curiously, it lends the book something of a country and western feel.

That said, there's also plenty of lovelorn yearning, bittersweet break-ups, and sex and drugs, too. Muldoon, one senses, is never happier than when subverting a cliche, and he has plenty to draw on: phrases such as "so long" and "over you", for example, are picked over, turned round and made to enact the linguistic reversal that concludes several of the pieces.

There's some clever stuff going on, as you'd expect from a writer as sharply playful as Muldoon. After Charlton Heston, the next piece, "Big Twist", references Planet of the Apes; and the 60s singer Eddie Falcon in the previous poem morphs into The Maltese Falcon here. The poem's rolling allusiveness scrolls through Hollywood – Star Wars, Chinatown, Psycho, Blade Runner – to interrogate the mirror-world of American cultural identity, via a conventional love-song trope in which the constructed "you" is as unclear as any could wish for: "Your falling for me that first day / Was the first clue I missed / And that you've loved me all along / Is clearly the big twist".

There are further deliberate slippages of thought in "Black Box", where the aeroplane isn't invented, as everyone thinks, by Wilbur and Orville Wright, but has an oddly essential life of its own: "an airplane flew low over your bed / Concocting itself as it flew / I don't know what happened along the way / To make me come up with you". As for the naming of things, that's more often than not misleading, or a downright lie, the result of a conspiracy of wilful blindness: just as the black box "is often orange or red / That in itself is a clue", so, in "Cleaning Up My Act" "There are no gentlemen / In a gentlemen's club" and "Nothing is a problem / To a problem child". The refrain has a distinctly Cole Porterish tone: "I'm hoping to be filthy rich / That's why I'm cleaning up my act".

Like Porter, Muldoon delights in reaching for an absurd rhyme: "Hegel" and "bagel", say, or "tendency" and "Southend-on-Sea". And at times, the freewheeling juxtapositions of classical or highbrow references with pop culture and Americana do bring the Dylan of Highway 61 Revisited to mind: "Delilah was a Delaware dame … As for Jezebel / She put her horse / Before the cartel / And the drug task force / Even the dogs in the street could tell / Jezebel was a Jersey belle".

The difficulty with reading these pieces is that you don't quite know whether to read them as song lyrics – in which case you subconsciously try to supply your own rhythmic beat, even though you can't tell for sure where a syllable might best be sung short or long – or as poetry, in which case you find yourself tripping up on some of the repetitive refrains, and quickly become aware that they don't display anything like the full range of inventiveness of his best verse. Better, perhaps, to listen to them being performed – which, happily, is possible at the Wayside Shrines website, where, as the book's cover says, you can hear "music inspired by these lyrics". Having done so, however, I'm not sure that they're wholly successful as songs, either – their provenance as poetry first makes some of the settings seem awkward, or it may simply be that Muldoon is less practised as a lyricist than as a poet for the page. Well, no doubt there are as many ways of writing a great song as a great poem, but I'm reminded that, when he began writing "Yesterday", Paul McCartney used the words "Scrambled eggs / Oh my baby how I love your legs" as placeholder text before he came up with the final lyrics. Sometimes there's a lot to be said for scrambled eggs.

Saturday 27 April 2013

Henri Matisse at Tate Modern

Tate Modern to show Henri Matisse final works
Spring 2014 exhibition to include large-scale cut-outs of famous Blue Nudes, The Snail and Large Composition with Masks

Charlotte Higgins
Friday 19 April 2013

The extraordinary works Henri Matisse made during the last period of his life – the large-scale cut-outs on coloured paper, including his famous Blue Nudes – are to be exhibited at Tate Modern next spring.
It will be the most comprehensive exhibition of these late works ever held, with 120 on show, including his Large Composition with Masks from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Memory of Oceania from the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tate's own The Snail. These works were displayed together by the artist in his studio, and will be seen together again for the first time during the exhibition.
The artist began to make cut-outs in 1943, according to the curator Nicholas Cullinan, after an operation in his early 70s that left him in ill health and the feeling that he was living on borrowed time. At first the impulse was pure expedience: the works could be made much more quickly than an oil painting. At the same time, "he began to realise the potential in the method, and stopped painting, choosing to focus on the cut-outs," said Cullinan. "He talked about how liberated he felt; how he had been given a second life."
With assistants colouring the paper to precise specifications and then helping to position the works, Matisse would "make cut-outs with a rapid gesture with the scissors, incredibly quickly," said Cullinan. He was also "fastidious and meticulous", redoing and altering the work until it was exactly right.
He became so entrenched in this way of making art that "his work rate accelerated rather than diminished – he would work around the clock and assistants in their 20s remembered being really put through their paces by him. He was still working in 1954, two days before he died."
They were extraordinarily forward-looking works. "They are more like installations or environments than paintings; and they seem very contemporary now. Part of the point of the show is to reconsider them in this light," said Cullinan. "They were a way of collapsing line and colour; at the same time they were a kind of sculpture – carving into pure colour."

Friday 26 April 2013

George Jones RIP age 81

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — George Jones, whose supple Texas voice conveyed heartbreak so profound that he became perhaps the most imitated singer in country music, died Friday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville after being hospitalized with high fever and irregular blood pressure. He was 81.
Hank Williams may have set country music's mythology and Johnny Cash its attitude, but Jones gave the genre its ultimate voice. With recordings that spanned 50 years, including Number One singles White Lightning, She Thinks I Still Care and He Stopped Loving Her Today, Jones influenced generations of country singers and was considered by many to be the greatest of them all.
Jones' life also included legendary battles with substance abuse, mostly alcohol, and four marriages, including one to fellow singer Tammy Wynette and another, his last and longest, to Nancy Sepulvado.
Ultimately, though, it was that voice that won Jones two Grammys, got him into the Country Music Hall of Fame and made him an American musical icon. That plaintive voice that seemed to break down at will and wallow in sorrow. That voice of honky-tonk eloquence that held tortured echoes of heroes like Williams, Roy Acuff and Lefty Frizzell. That finely nuanced voice that offered thrill rides of emotions, with twists and turns, slippery, bending notes and sudden drops.
Jones' performances weren't just an emotional rollercoaster, they were the whole theme park.
Born in a log cabin in the "Big Thicket" region of East Texas, Jones grew up idolizing Acuff and bluegrass great Bill Monroe. In his youth, he played on the streets of downtown Beaumont for tips. He met Williams at a local radio station in 1949, and the singer advised young Jones to stop singing like Acuff and start singing like himself.
By the time he began recording for Pappy Dailey's Starday Records in 1954, Jones had married and divorced and served a stint with the Marines in Korea. He first hit the national country charts in 1955 – the same year that Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash made their chart debuts – with Why Baby Why, a honky-tonk record featuring a double-tracked vocal. Jones' recording eventually was eclipsed by Webb Pierce and Red Sovine's cover, which topped the charts, while his stalled at No. 2.
His first Number One came with White Lightning, a moonshine novelty with an oddball, hiccupping hook. By this time, Jones already was a binge drinker and, according to his 1997 autobiography I Lived to Tell It All, he was heavily under the influence during the recording session and required 83 takes to get a usable version. White Lightning came out in March 1959, one month after its writer – J.P. Richardson, aka The Big Bopper – was killed in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
The flat-topped singer placed multiple singles on the country charts each year during the '60s – ballads like The Window Up Above and If My Heart Had Windows; The Race Is On, with its rumbling, six-string bass solo; duets with Melba Montgomery and pop singer Gene Pitney. Occasionally, Jones topped the charts with Tender Years, She Thinks I Still Care and Walk Through This World With Me.
In 1969, Jones married Tammy Wynette – one of the most famous country music marriages ever, though it would last just six years. Jones followed Wynette to Epic Records and soon began working with her producer, Billy Sherrill, who would be responsible for his biggest hits of the '70s and '80s.
Jones and Wynette recorded a series of duet singles – including chart-toppers Golden Ring, Near You and We're Gonna Hold On – that outlined a fictive version of the couple's often-volatile relationship. The duets continued for several years after they divorced in 1975, and the two reunited professionally for a final album together, One, in 1995.
During the '90s, Jones released an album, followed by an autobiography, called I Lived to Tell It All – the irony in the title coming precisely because so many people hadn't expected him to.
His drinking and, eventually, his cocaine use, caused him to miss so many concerts that he earned the nickname No-Show Jones (he was also, more kindly, called The Possum).
He got in fights and destroyed motel rooms. He ventilated his tour bus by emptying the chambers of a pistol into its floor. He drove to a liquor store on a riding lawnmower when his second wife, Shirley Corley, hid all the car keys. At his most inebriated, he insisted on singing in the voice of a duck named Deedoodle.
Jones recounted multiple brushes with death in his book, but his best-known one came in 1999, when he crashed his Lexus SUV into a bridge abutment near Franklin, Tenn., while talking on his cellphone. Jones suffered a collapsed lung and ruptured liver and spent two weeks in a Nashville hospital.
Police found a partially empty bottle of vodka under the front passenger's seat, and Jones later pled guilty to driving while impaired and acknowledged that he had fallen off the wagon.
Even at the height of his substance abuse, Jones' personal troubles couldn't always overshadow his talent.
His name has appeared on more charting singles – 168, spanning 55 years – than any other country singer's, from 1955's Why Baby Why to Aaron Lewis' 2010 hit Country Boy, where he was a featured vocalist with Charlie Daniels.
He was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2008 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Jones' greatest artistic achievement came with Billy Sherrill, his regular producer for much of the 1970s and '80s. Sherrill, an admirer of Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" musical architecture, constructed his own masterpieces using Jones' voice as scaffolding. Instead of competing with the singer's dramatic delivery, Sherrill complemented it with vocal choruses, theatrical string sections and tensile pedal steel guitar lines. Sherrill's lavish productions didn't bury Jones, they revealed previously unheard subtleties of expression.
The pair reached their peak with the 1980 release of He Stopped Loving Her Today, widely considered to be the greatest country record ever made and one that, according to many involved with its creation, took more than a year to get on tape because Jones was so wrecked by cocaine and bourbon.
"He said I'll love you 'til I die/She told him you'll forget in time," Jones sang as he began the Bobby Braddock/Curly Putman tune, needing only three minutes and 15 seconds to convey a lifetime of emotional devastation, the kind that takes hold of a man and doesn't let go, not ever.
He Stopped Loving Her Today revived Jones' career and perhaps saved his life. It gave him his first number-one hit in five years and won four awards from the Country Music Association, including Song of the Year twice. It also gave him the first of his two Grammys – he won again in 2000 for the post-wreck Choices.
In his later years, Jones often complained about the directions contemporary country music took, especially after radio stopped playing his records. But younger stylists revered him, particularly during country's commercial boom of the late '80s and early '90s. Several, including Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Vince Gill sang with him on 1992's I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair, released the same year Jones was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In the last 10 years of his career, he recorded with Shooter Jennings and Staind frontman Aaron Lewis, as well as with Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard.

Now, that voice has gone silent.

Richie Havens RIP age 72

Richie Havens, who has died of a heart attack aged 72, is best known for his opening performance at the historic 1969 Woodstock festival. He had been scheduled to go on fifth, but major traffic snarl-ups delayed many of the performers, so he was put on first and told to perform a lengthy set.
He entranced the audience for three hours, being called back time and again for encores. With his repertoire exhausted, he improvised a song based on the spiritual Motherless Child. This became Freedom, his best known song and an anthem for a generation. His inclusion on the subsequent film of the festival – where he can be seen strutting around the stage, pouring every ounce of emotion into the song – further enhanced his reputation. The song was included on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's 2012 slavery-era film Django Unchained.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of nine children, Havens formed street corner doo-wop groups with his friends, and sang with the McCrea Gospel Singers at the age of 16. Although he had already visited the artistic hotbed Greenwich Village, to read poetry, he was 20 before he moved there to live, soon learning to play the guitar and performing in the Village's folk venues, where this 6ft 6in tall African American stood out in the largely white clubs.
His distinctive guitar playing and soulful, gruff singing style quickly marked him out as a performer to watch, and after a couple of albums on the Douglas label, Havens was signed up by Bob Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, who secured a record deal with Verve Records.
The first album with Verve, Mixed Bag (1967), included his own anti-war ballad, Handsome Johnny (co-written with the actor Louis Gossett Jr), and a handful of covers, including John Lennon and Paul McCartney's Eleanor Rigby and Dylan's Just Like a Woman. As with all his subsequent covers, he made the songs his own, with his highly rhythmic guitar accompaniment.
His Woodstock success encouraged Havens to found his own record label, Stormy Forest, and although the first album, Stonehenge (1970), was more subdued than his Woodstock audience expected, his next record, Alarm Clock (1971), indeed became a wake-up call: it was his highest charting album, and a single of George Harrison's Here Comes the Sun made the US top 20.
Havens's repertoire was always a mixture of his own compositions and covers of other songwriters: he had a special talent for interpreting other people's songs, always delivered in his soulful, fiery and passionate vocal style with his attacking, urgent, rhythmic guitar accompaniment.
After kidney surgery in 2010, Havens retired from touring. He is survived by four daughters.


Thursday 25 April 2013

Last night's set lists

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

Set 1: -

The Sound Of Silence
Singing The Blues
Wake Up Little Susie
Handle Me With Care

Set 2: -

All I Have To Do Is Dream
Love Hurts
Crying In The Rain
Let It Be Me

An odd night in which the bar was heaving by 9:30 and virtually empty by 11:30 - it's usually the other way round.

An after hours singsong included The Only Living Boy In New York, The Boxer, There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You  and If Not For You.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Last night's set list

At the Fulford Arms, York: -

Crazy Arms
Love Art Blues
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Everybody's Talkin'
Teach Your Children
Love Letters In The Sand

An exceptional night, including a gypsy jazz trio (fiddle, bodhran & guitar), the 'house band' Muttley Crew, country gent Matt Ransom and bluesman Colin Rowntree.

I was accompanied by the fiddle player, 2 guitarists and a drummer. Given my choice of tunes they did rather well. Once again the show was recorded so who knows what it will sound like in the cold light of day?

Monday 22 April 2013

Bob Dylan - Dylan and Bootleg Series Vol, 10 by Terry Kelly

Image result for dylan the album 1973
A Country Mile or Two: the Dylan album, 40 years on

By Terry Kelly

Released on November 16, 1973, Dylan was more an act of corporate revenge than a bona fide album. Shoddily produced and packaged, Columbia Records put the album out after Dylan abandoned his old label for David Geffen's then super-hip Asylum Records, for whom he produced Planet Waves and the live double album, Before the Flood. For the average fan in late 1973, the Dylan album must have seemed a very strange concoction, being a series of outtakes or warm-up tracks from Self Portrait and New Morning, three years previously. The clue to the album's cynical and money-motivated provenance was obvious before pulling the vinyl from its sleeve. The cover profile picture of Dylan was by Al Clayton and originally appeared on the inside of the gatefold sleeve of Self Portrait, as Dylan stood in the studio with fiddle player Doug Kershaw, with one of his children crawling around his feet. Billed on the reverse of Dylan as a "serigraph" by one Richard Kenerson, the original photograph appeared - for no obvious reason - to have been daubed with red, yellow, purple and black streaks. Oddly, although the selfsame picture, in a more muted form, appears on the reverse, the credit for it reads: "Back cover photograph and album design by John Berg." It was John Berg who had supplied John Wesley Harding's haunting cover photograph, so we can only assume that he had a bad day at the office when he worked on the Dylan album. Apart from the information that the "original recording sessions" were "produced by Bob Johnston," the album sleeve contains little or no other detail, the many Nashville and New York musicians involved - including such luminaries as Charlie McCoy, Pete Drake, Kenny Buttrey, Al Kooper and David Bromberg - being expunged, in almost Stalinist fashion, while Dylan himself is not even granted his Christian name on the front or reverse of the sleeve. Columbia's publicity for the album included a photograph of their former artist on the set of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid from the previous year. It may or may not have been a private record company joke, but the picture showed Dylan scowling into the camera. Despite the 'official bootleg' nature of the release, Dylan apparently sold in excess of 500,000 units, reaching number 17 on the US Billboard chart and going gold. But Dylan was apparently the singer's only album not to chart in the UK, where his records generally did better than his native US.

The critics weren't kind. In a review for The Guardian (January 3, 1974), headlined "The Most Embarrassing Piece of Plastic Ever Produced In the Name of a Great Artist" - a line drawn from the accompanying scathing review - Robin Denselow slams "a miserable attempt at two Presley hits" and what he calls "a dirge-like version of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi," while suggesting that several tracks "are wrecked by bad production and an over-dominant girlie chorus." Denselow grudgingly adds that "only one song, Lily of the West, is up to standard." Writing in Consumer Guide, noted US rock scribe Robert Christgau stated: "Listening to this set of rejects from what used to be Dylan's worst album does have its morbid fascination - if you'll forgive the esoteric reference, it's like watching Ryne Duren pitch without glasses. Not only are the timbre and melody off - he was always wild - but he also doesn't phrase cogently, and the songs just hit the dirt. All of which is CBS's punishment after Bobby had the bad manners to sign with another label." Rolling Stone, meanwhile, mocked the album, declaring: "Guaranteed to net only horselaughs." Leading Dylan scholar Michael Gray, reviewing the album for the long-gone Let It Rock (April, 1974), is more measured, detailed and responsive: "Me, I like it. I don't accept the much-aired view that if it had been up to Dylan, he would never have released an album of this calibre...Whether Dylan would have released the material is hardly the main point at issue; a more interesting question is, what was the purpose of these tracks when they were recorded? The answer, clearly, is that they were warm-ups for particular songs already released on a previous Dylan album, and anyone with a competent interest in the artist's output can make the right connection in every case." But Gray also slams "the obvious fact that the record has been doctored by Columbia in New York," adding: "Basically the album has been given a horrendous re-mix by some anonymous apeman who plainly has the hots for all the girls in the girl-chorus." Gray also disagrees with Denselow, calling Dylan's reading of Big Yellow Taxi "fine and upstanding," Can't Help Falling in Love "moving and thoughtful," and both The Ballad of Ira Hayes and Mr Bojangles "respectful and sensitive and not without emotional power." But the normally meticulous Gray comes slightly unstuck in his early, pre-internet, pre-rock data crit of the album, suggesting A Fool Such As I "was cut at the Nashville Skyline sessions as a warm-up for To Be Alone For You," while further speculating that Sarah Jane is a 1967 Basement Tapes recording, with backing from The Band during their Big Pink period. Fast-forwarding to 2006, and The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Gray still rates Can't Help Falling in Love, Mr Bojangles and A Fool Such As I as the "best tracks," while again condemning "back-up vocals horrendously far forward," and excoriating the album as a "shoddy bully-boy tactic of a release." (But I also recall my frustration in 1974, when Dylan returned to Columbia, who had promised to clear their vaults of more unreleased material.)

With the aid of Glen Dundas's ever-useful Tangled - A Recording History of Bob Dylan (2004), it's possible to trace not only the source of the songs on Dylan, but to link them vocally to the officially released tracks from Self Portrait and New Morning, with two of the songs on the album drawn from sessions from the former and seven from the latter. The earliest recorded Dylan track appears to have been the more musically baroque take of the two officially released versions of Spanish Is The Loving Tongue. Recorded in Nashville, on April 24-25, 1969, Dylan had seven attempts at the song, just after cutting the Self Portrait version of Living the Blues. Back in the studio the following day, Dylan paid homage to Elvis in his playful version of A Fool Such As I, which actually became the later title of the Dylan album, or at least its subtitle in some countries. The Elvis track was the liveliest cut from a session when he successfully captured more ballad material for Self Portrait, namely Take Me As I Am, I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know, and Let It Be Me. Most of the material on Dylan was recorded at Studio E at Columbia Studios, New York, between March and June of 1970, during the New Morning sessions. The musicians included Charlie Daniels on guitar, Al Kooper on organ, David Bromberg on guitar and dobro, Russ Kunkel on drums and Ron Cornelius on guitar. It is said that Dylan originally intended to release an album of original songs and covers, but this idea seems to have been rejected nearer the release date, perhaps in response to the negative critical reaction to Self Portrait. Among several takes of the still unreleased bluegrass standard, Alligator Man (which Michael Krogsgaard told The Bridge was scheduled to appear on an earlier version of the album) and three takes of Oh Lonesome Me - presumably the Don Gibson number - both Peter La Farge's The Ballad of Ira Hayes and the jaunty, very badly mixed Sarah Jane were both cut on June 1, 1970. The following day, among multiple, incomplete takes of Time Passes Slowly, Dylan recorded both Jerry Jeff Walker's classic Mr Bojangles and the delicate, rather lovely Mary Ann. June 3 found Dylan recording another Elvis homage, Can't Help Falling In Love, from The King's 1961 Blue Hawaii soundtrack album. This recording is one of the highlights of the Dylan album - Michael Gray calls it "simultaneosuly witty and touching" in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia - with some of the song's vocal inflections echoing some of those on New Morning, while the harmonica playing is tender and evocative. (The way Dylan sings "some things were meant to beee..." is vocally close to "sure gonna be wet tonight on Main Streeeeet" in Sign on the Window, and there are many other vocal resemblances between the two albums, such as the 'recitation' section of Ira Hayes and Three Angels.) Dylan also cut the classic murder ballad, Lily of the West, on June 3, perhaps remembering the song from an early Joan Baez recording. Dylan revisits his early love song, Tomorrow Is A Long Time on June 4, transforming it into a bluesy dirge, while picking up the pace for an eccentric version of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, with Al Kooper's organ always appearing to be chasing - and never keeping pace - with the vocal.

Almost 40 years on, Dylan can still feel like a guilty audio pleasure. In a way, it was a precursor of the Bootleg Series, despite its dubious origins. But it's also a useful addendum to both Self Portrait and New Morning. I'm writing this in early March, 2013, just a week after details were released of a new Dylan single on 7'' vinyl. The A-side will feature a demo version of Wigwam, backed by a previously unheard take of Eric Andersen's Thirsty Boots (both Self Portrait tracks and both recorded at Columbia's famous Studio B In New York, between March 4 and 5, 1970.) The even more welcome news for this Dylan fan is that both tracks will appear on the forthcoming Bootleg Series Vol. 10, which will apparently feature unreleased tracks from the 1969-70 sessions which produced Self Portrait, New Morning and the 'bastard child' which became the Dylan album. As a dedicated fan of country period Dylan, I couldn't be happier. Dylan recorded many covers for Self Portrait and New Morning which have never circulated. True, outtakes from hipper albums like Blonde On Blonde or Blood on the Tracks would probably generate more interest among Dylan's fanbase and greater coverage in the rock press, but I find the prospect of a double album of previously unreleased material from 1969-70 mouth-watering. So what can we expect from the next instalment of the Bootleg Series? Apart from the tracks confirmed on the vinyl single, there are various cover versions, either complete or fragmentary, such as a brief attempt at Otis Redding's (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay, The Universal Soldier, When a Fellow Is Out of a Job and These Hands, all from a New York session on March 3, 1970, takes of Tom Paxton's Annie's Going To Sing Her Song, plus the traditional numbers Little Brown Dog, Railroad Bill, House Carpenter and Tell Old Bill, plus the aforementioned Thirsty Boots, all from a session the following day. March 5 produced another clutch of unheard Dylan covers, including Little Moses, Come A Little Bit Closer, Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies and My Previous Life. That's quite apart from stabs at Alligator Man, Runnin,' Jamaica Farewell, Long Black Veil, Lead Belly's Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie and another nod to The King, with a version of the Stan Kesler-Charlie Feathers song, I Forgot To Remember To Forget, which Elvis recorded at the Sun Sessions on July 11, 1955. While no one is suggesting that all of these tracks will be either complete or of the first-rank, in terms of quality or performance, the fact that Dylan recorded these songs at the height of his vocal powers, while surrounded by some of the best musicians in Nashville and New York, makes their release, at the very least, of great interest to serious fans. One man who has actually heard some of the tracks we may find on the next Bootleg Series is Michael Krogsgaard, who was granted access to Dylan's recording session archives in 1995. Interviewed by The Bridge in March, 2007, Krogsgaard described how he heard recordings of Dylan and David Bromberg trying out some of the covers, such as The Universal Soldier, without any other session musicians and before overdubs, explaining: "They did one or a few takes of each song - some are incomplete, like Universal Soldier, that misses the last lines...and a song like Days of 49 was basically just Dylan and Bromberg. Then Al Kooper overdubbed with bass, drums, electric guitar etc. As the session evolved, more and more musicians were involved, ending with a full band with background vocalists, on which Kooper just had to add strings or other orchestral instruments....(I Forgot To Remember To Forget) was not a warm-up thing. It was recorded like the other tracks. A serious try-out. It was from the session where he clearly had a cold, which I assume will sound very charming in this song...The original version of the Dylan album, which was actually made as a matrix, included interesting takes like Runnin,' - from 1969 - and Alligator Man from the 1970 session." (Amazingly, as far back as 1972, Anthony Scaduto's groundbreaking Dylan biography mentioned both Thirsty Boots and Jamaica Farewell as outtakes from the sessions for Self Portrait and New Morning.)

It's impossible to say how many of the aforementioned songs will make The Bootleg Series Vol.10. Of course, some unreleased country material has already slipped out. Last year, a bootleg album called Nashville Sessions 1969 And More (Rattle Snake) featured outtakes of Lay Lady Lay and One More Night from Nashville Skyline, plus alternate takes of Blue Moon and different mixes of other tracks from Self Portrait. What is almost certain is that the material on the next Bootleg Series will have been treated with far more tender, loving care than that afforded to the tracks on the Dylan album in 1973. Sadly, what is also clear is that Greil Marcus' infamous opening line of his Self Portrait review, which appeared in Rolling Stone on July 23, 1970, seemed to seal the critical fate of the double album. His opening salvo - "What is this shit?" - has given generations of fans a far too easy opt-out critical clause not to engage with the album for themselves and to treat Dylan's country period, including the rough diamonds on the Dylan album, with continued disdain. When I interviewed Marcus for The Bridge in October 2010, he still dismissed most of the album, with the possible exception of Copper Kettle. But Greil Marcus is plain wrong: Self Portrait is a great album. And I can't wait for the next Bootleg Series.

From The Bridge No. 45 (

And now it's about to be released:

Sunday 21 April 2013

Happy Birthday, Paul Kelly!

Brother, cousin, friend, a Carl Bernstein for our time, an Andrews Sister in a previous life, writer, filmmaker, vocalist, sportsman, drinker, spoiler of women. Happy birthday, birthday boy!

Happy Birthday Paul

50 not out.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Last night's set lists

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

Set 1: -
Singing The Blues
Daydream Believer
I'm A Believer
Funny How Love Can Be
Sha La La La Lee
Wake Up Little Susie

Set 2: -
Walk Right Back
Crying In The Rain
Things We Said Today
Bye Bye Love
Let It Be Me

Went on about 9:30 for the first set, straight after host Mark Wynn, whose new release is only available on vinyl - I now have a copy. 5 'new' songs out of six for The Elderlys! We have been busy.

Ron (who became a grandfather for the second time this very evening - a baby girl) and I finished the night with our second set.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Keith Crombie Tribute Concert...

Musical tribute held to founder of Jazz Cafe in Newcastle
An evening of music was held last night to honour the founder of Newcastle's Jazz Cafe, Keith Crombie

Sara Nichol

14 April 2013

Jazz “refugees” gathered at a evening of performances to celebrate the spirit of a lost friend.

The Jazz Cafe, in Newcastle, closed its doors after the death of founder and owner Keith Crombie late last year.

Regulars set up the Pink Lane Jazz Co-op in the hope they could one day reopen the musician’s haunt.

And last night the Jazz Cafe Big Bash brought the atmosphere of the cafe to the Newcastle Arts Centre’s Black Swan pub on Westgate Road.

Fans enjoyed some of the region’s finest jazz musicians, as well as poetry and dance in a relaxed atmosphere.

First up were poets Jenni Pascoe and Steve Urwin, followed by blues singer Mo Scott and jazz pianist Paul Edis.

DJ Serena Cee from Swing Tyne also performed, as well as the award-winning afro-funk band Hannabiell and Midnight Blue.

One of the co-op founders, Dave Parker, said: “We had a lot of interest in tonight, particularly on Facebook and we also handed out leaflets.

“The Jazz Cafe is never going to be the same without Keith - it was so much a reflection of the personality of a remarkable man. There is no individual capable of stepping into his big shoes.

“We believe we can continue some of the things that he created, which is what tonight is about, the performance of live performance of jazz and poetry in relaxed surroundings.”

The evening was held in Newcastle’s Art Centre, which also owns the former Jazz Cafe.

Mr Parker added: “The good news is that they don’t want to sell the place or lease it to someone else but the disappointing thing is they don’t want to lease it to us either.

“If we can’t have the Jazz Cafe there, we will just have to find somewhere else.

“We want a venue where jazz and poetry and anything related is the main focus and selling drinks and food supports that. It’s the complete opposite of 99% of other venues in Newcastle, which are bars and restaurants that hold the odd night of particular music.”

The co-op has already had meetings with the landlord of the Jazz Cafe, Newcastle Arts Centre boss Mike Tilley, which they described as positive.

And until the venue can be reinstated, they have been supporting and promoting other jazz nights elsewhere, including the Star Inn on Westgate Road and No 28 on Nelson Street.

Seaham-born Mr Crombie, who set up the Jazz Cafe 20 years ago, died on December 29 after a short spell in hospital with a lung infection. He was 73.

At his funeral, mourners followed his coffin through the streets in a New Orleans-style send-off.

For more information on the co-op, go to or ring 0191 452 8946

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Last night's set list

At the Fulford Arms, York: -

Is It Only The Moonlight?
Love Song
Ghosts On The Tyne
Walk Right In
Teach Your Children

Was backed by host Dave Keegan who coped masterfully with my own songs.

Country adict Matt Ransom brought some recording equipment, so there may be a bootleg of tonight's show at some point in the future.

Excellent sets too from Lee Parry, Colin Rowntree and Dave Keegan. The Muttley Crew jam which ended the night was pure Velvet Underground 1967-style. Crackin' stuff. Hope Matt got that on tape.

Monday 15 April 2013

Philip Larkin - Love Again

Love Again

Love again: wanking at ten past three 
(Surely he’s taken her home by now?),
The bedroom hot as a bakery,
The drink gone dead, without showing how
To meet tomorrow, and afterwards, 
And the usual pain, like dysentery.

Someone else feeling her breasts and cunt,
Someone else drowned in that lash-wide stare, 
And me supposed to be ignorant, 
Or find it funny, or not to care, 
Even ... but why put it into words? 
Isolate rather this element 

That spreads through other lives like a tree 
And sways them on in a sort of sense 
And say why it never worked for me. 
Something to do with violence 
A long way back, and wrong rewards,
And arrogant eternity.

20 September 1979

From The Complete Poems (2012)
© The Estate of Philip Larkin

Reviewing Anthony Thwaite's 1988 edition of Larkin's Collected Poems, the late, great poet and critic Ian Hamilton grouped 'Love Again' with a handful of previously unpublished poems he termed 'desperately miserable, indeed inconsolable.' It's hard to disagree. Even though 'Love Again' has its faults — what Hamilton was apt to call 'wonky' moments as poetry — its searing power makes such blemishes seem negligible. And while some critics resist a purelyautobiographical reading of Larkin's work, the poem's roots seem painfully, fallibly human. Sexual jealousy makes for unforgettable imagery: 'Someone else feeling her breasts and cunt,/Someone else drowned in that lash-wide stare...' (Hardy would have cherished that heart-stopping, hyphenated image of the loved one.) But as Martin Amis and others have observed, Larkin also seemed to enter a poetic No Man's Land in this late, self-probing, almost stunted lyric from 1979; as with the similarly late and inquisitional 'Aubade,' Larkin was posing questions about his own nature he was unable to answer, perhaps triggering his final poetic silence. The poem's raw intimacies can make us feel like voyeurs, but we read on. 'Love Again' is a final, angry burst of lyrical power from a great poet.


Terry Kelly works as a journalist in South Tyneside. He contributed to AL 15; a review of Early Poems and Juvenilia to AL 19 and an interview with Larkin biographer Richard Bradford and a review of his First Boredom Then Fear:The Life of Philip Larkin to AL 20. Another passion is Bob Dylan and he is a regular contributor to the UK fanzine The Bridge: www.

And he's a dyed-in-the-wool, fully paid-up member of the FNB. Busy guy.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Reading Barry Macsweeney - edited by Paul Batchelor

Barry MacSweeney was described as 'a contrary, lone wolf...[whose] ear for a soaring lyric melody was unmatched' (Nicholas Johnson, Independent). MacSweeney found fame with his first book, The Boy from the Green Cabaret Tells of his Mother, which appeared when he was just nineteen years old. But he soon retreated from the publicity, and for almost thirty years his poetry appeared only in small press publications. Identifying himself with Chatterton and Rimbaud, MacSweeney developed a poetics based on experiment and excess, from the fragmented lyricism of 'Brother Wolf' to the political anger of 'Jury Vet'; from the dizzying historical perspectives of Ranter to the nightmarish urban landscape of Hellhound Memos.

In 1997, MacSweeney once again found a wider audience, with the publication of his last full-length book, The Book of Demons, which recorded his fierce fight against alcoholism. This book also included Pearl, a sequence of tender lyrics celebrating the poet's first love and his rural Northumbrian childhood. At the time of his death in 2000, MacSweeney was preparing a retrospective selection of his work for publication. When Wolf Tongue: Selected Poems 1965-2000 appeared in 2003, it brought a wealth of poetry back into print, displaying the incredible range, ambition and quality of MacSweeney's work. Reading Barry MacSweeney is the first book of essays to assess MacSweeney's achievement. Bringing together academic critics, poets and friends of the poet, the book considers many aspects of MacSweeney's career, including his political verse, his re-imagining of pastoral poetry, his love of popular music, and his mapping of Northumberland. 

Contributors include Professor W.N. Herbert, Matthew Jarvis, Peter Riley, Professor William Rowe, Harriet Tarlo and Professor John Wilkinson, as well as MacSweeney's journalist friend Terry Kelly, and poet S.J. Litherland, MacSweeney's former partner.

Paul Batchelor was born in Northumberland in 1977. In 2003 he received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, and in 2004 he was given the Andrew Waterhouse Award by New Writing North. In 2005 he was a winner of the Poetry Business Prize; his pamphlet To Photograph a Snow Crystal was published by Smith/Doorstop in 2006. His first full-length collection, The Sinking Road (Bloodaxe, 2008), was shortlisted for The Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2008 and the Glen Dimplex Prize for Best First Collection. His poem 'Comeuppance' won the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition in 2009. He did his PhD at Newcastle University on the work of Barry MacSweeney, and his critical anthology, Reading Barry MacSweeney, is due from Bloodaxe in 2013. His second collection is due in 2014. Paul Batchelor lives in Manchester and is a freelance reviewer.

'Barry MacSweeney was a contrary, lone wolf. For 25 years his work was marginalised and was absent from official records of poetry - MacSweeney's ear for a soaring, lyric melody was unmatched - his poetry became dark as blue steel, edging towards what became his domain: the lament' - Nicholas Johnson, Independent.

'His notion of the artist was formed around a myth of exemplary failure and belated recognition: Rimbaud was an early model for this - Such identifications were the basis for a poetics of direct utterance in which MacSweeney's voice mixed with others to inveigh, to celebrate or entreat - Pearl, a work of redemptive pathos, evoking the figure of a childhood sweetheart as a presence in nature, on the confines of social existence, was reprinted in The Book of Demons, where he projects himself as maimed and abject, hapless yet percipient victim of the demon drink, in writing that is both comic and terrifying' - Andrew Crozier, Guardian.

'MacSweeney's poetry places a radical, critical energy, unsparing of illusions, and bitter and comic in its self-appraisal, at the disposal of a clear-eyed celebration of the world. In lyrical and experimental forms the poet bears outraged witness to a culture in decline - as battered prophet, demonic wanderer and clown of misspent desire' - Clive Bush.

Friday 12 April 2013