Wednesday 31 August 2016

Frank Sinatra is Dirty Harry

An advance advertising poster for the famous 1971 film, placed in the trade press during 1970.

Sinatra was set to play the role but had to pull out allegedly because he had difficulty holding the most powerful handgun in the world, having broken his wrist in 1962 during the filming of a fight scene with Henry Silva in The Manchurian Candidate in 1962.

Warner Brothers wanted Sidney Pollack or Irvin Kershner to direct, but eventually went for Kershner, who left the project when Sinatra was no longer attached to the role.

Before Eastwood got the role, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, George C. Scott and Steve McQueen were considered.

Rumours that Richard Wattis auditioned for it have never been proven.

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Gene Wilder RIP

Gene Wilder: a wild, inspired and sensitive actor who ran on rocket fuel
The singular comic star, who has died at the age of 83, cooked up a quartet of indelible neurotics which belied great intelligence and whose genius may not yet have been fully appreciated

Peter Bradshaw
The Guardian
Monday 29 August 2016

Gene Wilder was a smart, industrious and often very funny actor and writer who earned a slow-burn cult status as the weirdo chocolate mogul Willy Wonka in the Roald Dahl adaptation Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).

His sharp, handsome face with intense blue eyes became more cartoon-like as he got older and he had a regular paycheck by teaming up with Richard Pryor in broad comedies like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy — a double-act which perhaps showed neither to his full potential. He also directed and adapted the 80s romantic comedy The Woman in Red, which got an Oscar for its hit Stevie Wonder tune, I Just Called To Say I Love You.

But his claim to fame lay in his partnership with his great comedy collaborator,Mel Brooks, effortlessly in tune with each other’s classic vein of American Jewish comedy. With Brooks he created three giant comic hits: The Producers (1967), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974).

Gene Wilder plays Leo Bloom, the nerdy little accountant who comes to work for Max Bialystock, played by Zero Mostel, a failed Broadway producer. Out of pure academic interest, Bloom notes that if Bialystock can persuade enough of his little-old-lady backers to put in far more money than he needs, and the show is a spectacular flop, then he can keep all the excess cash and never be investigated by his notional investors or the tax authorities.

Bialystock of course declares the idea to be pure genius, and they hit on the idea of a Hitler musical which naturally becomes a hit. Gene Wilder’s face is perfect: seething and wincing and gibbering with nerves and excitement, especially when he was reduced to a cringing mess of anxiety by being deprived of his childhood “blue blanket”. Wilder was far better than Matthew Broderick in the stage show, who didn’t have half the neurotic rocket-fuel that Wilder brought to the role. (I think Simon Helberg’s nervy pianist in Florence Foster Jenkins took a little from Wilder’s Leo Bloom.)

In the raucous spoof western, Blazing Saddles, Wilder plays legendary gunfighter Jim, who teams up with a black sheriff called Bart, played by the distinguished Shakespearian actor Cleavon Little, although the part was originally penciled in for Richard Pryor: the Wilder/Pryor partnership would only come into being later. As ever, good deadpan stuff from Wilder who was however rather upstaged by the uproarious setpieces — like the deafening “fart” medley — and also the other cast members, including veteran players Slim Pickens and Harvey Korman as the horribly corrupt politician Hedley Lamarr.

Wilder probably came into his own more with Young Frankenstein which he fully co-wrote with Brooks and which he put his stamp on. He is Dr Frankenstein, a modern-day neurophysiologist, tormented by the memory of his notorious grandfather and by his sense of destiny. Again, he was in danger of being a straight-man to huge comedy turns like Marty Feldman as Igor and Peter Boyle as the monster, but Wilder’s strange beady-eyed, frizzy-haired intensity always allowed him to dominate each scene in exactly the right way. He really did look mad.

The late 60s and early 70s were Gene Wilder’s moment, and perhaps he never quite equalled it later. But with Leo Bloom, Willy Wonka, Jim and Dr Frankenstein is a glorious quartet of comic performances.

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Gene Wilder, star of Willy Wonka and Mel Brooks comedies, dies aged 83
The actor, who starred in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Young Frankenstein, dies aged 83 from complications from Alzheimer’s, family says

Mazin Sidahmed and agencies
The Guardian
Tuesday 30 August 2016

Gene Wilder, the star of such comedy classics as The Producers and Blazing Saddles, has died. He was 83.

Wilder’s nephew said on Monday that the actor and writer died late on Sunday in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

“It is with indescribable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived, that I announce the passing of husband, parent, and universal artist Gene Wilder,” Jordan Walker-Pearlman, Wilder’s nephew, said in a statement.

He added that Wilder was diagnosed with the disease three years ago but kept the condition private so as not to disappoint fans. “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world,” Walker-Pearlman said.

The frizzy-haired actor was a master at playing panicked characters caught up in schemes that only director Mel Brooks could devise, whether reviving a monster in Young Frankenstein or bilking Broadway in The Producers.

But he also knew how to keep it cool as the boozy gunfighter in Blazing Saddles and as the charming candy man in the children’s favorite Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

It was for that role that he was most widely known, and Wilder’s face became synonymous with the character from the Roald Dahl novel.

Willy Wonka also earned him a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy. He was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1968 classic The Producers and also for his work on the script of Young Frankenstein in 1974.

Though they collaborated on film, Wilder and Brooks met through the theater. Wilder was in a play with Brooks’s then future wife, Anne Bancroft, who introduced the pair backstage in 1963.

He was close friends with Richard Pryor and their contrasting personas – Wilder uptight, Pryor loose – were ideal for comedy. They co-starred in four films: Silver Streak; Stir Crazy; See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and Another You, and created several memorable scenes, particularly when Pryor provided Wilder with directions on how to “act black” as they tried to avoid police in Silver Streak.

Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee on 11 June 1933. His father was a Russian emigre, his mother was of Polish descent. When he was six, Wilder’s mother had a heart attack that left her partially disabled. He soon began improvising comedy skits to entertain her.

He studied communication and theatre arts at the University of Iowa before moving to England, where he was trained with the Bristol Old Vic theatre school.

He changed his name after returning from serving in the military, where he worked at the psychiatric ward delivering electroshock therapy, according to the BBC.

Wilder got his start in film with a brief role in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde before his breakout part in The Producers the next year. Brooks’s first film, it revolved around the efforts of Wilder and Zero Mostel to create a Broadway flop as a financial scam. But their tasteless musical about the Nazis unfortunately proves a huge success.

He would go on to to play Doctor Ross, who has an affair with a sheep, in Woody Allen’s cult classic Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex.

Wilder was married four times. He met his third wife, Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radner, when they co-starred in the 1982 film Hanky Panky. Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Following her death, Wilder founded the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles along with Gilda’s Club to raise awareness of the disease. Wilder went on to survive cancer himself, after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999.

Wilder adopted the biological child of his second wife Mary Joan Schultz, Katherine, when the two were married in 1967. However, he became estranged from his daughter later in life. He told Larry King in 2002 that he had a daughter and “lost her a long while ago”.

He continued to act throughout the 1990s and 2000s, starring in an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and theatre shows. He was also the lead in a short-lived sitcom Something Wilder, from 1994 to 1996. He announced his retirement from acting after winning an Emmy for his guest role in Will & Grace in 2003.

He did not appreciate Warner Brothers’ remake of Willy Wonka in 2005, calling the Tim Burton-directed remake starring Johnny Depp “all about money”. “It’s just some people sitting around thinking: how can we make some more money? Why else would you remake Willy Wonka?” he told the Daily Telegraph in 2005.

Walker-Pearlman said Wilder died surrounded by his family at his home. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Karen Wilder.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mel Brooks ‏@MelBrooks 12h12 hours ago

Gene Wilder-One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.

A forgotten gem: Wilder in Bud Yorkin's Start The Revolution Without Me (1970), in which he and Donald Sutherland play dual roles: a couple of peasants and the swordsmen they are mistaken for, the Corsican Brothers...

Monday 29 August 2016

Becoming The Beach Boys: The Complete Hite and Dorinda Morgan Sessions - review

Becoming The Beach Boys: The Complete Hite and Dorinda Morgan Sessions
The Beach Boys (Omnivore)

A few years back, an album of early Beach Boys’ numbers labelled Beach Hits or Greatest Hits or even Surfer Girl was a common sight. Of course, on closer inspection it wasn’t THE Surfer Girl album, but a collection of songs recorded in their pre-Capitol days (occasionally rounded out by numbers by other artists) produced by Hite and Dorinda Morgan between 1961 and 1962 when the Boys changed from The Pendletones to The Beach Boys and then, briefly, to Kenny and the Cadets. It was 1990 before Steve Hoffman located the original recordings, which he re-mastered and in 1991 (on DCC Compact Classics) released as Lost and Found, containing the master takes and a selection of other takes from the sessions. Following that, there was an aborted attempt to have a subscription release of the full sessions (as remastered by Hoffman) under the title, First Wave, in 2000 by Beach Boys historian and collector Brad Elliott, but the band claimed that Bruce Morgan, Hite and Dorinda’s son, didn’t have permission to issue the set and put a stop to it.

So… here we are in 2016 and we have the official release of the most complete set of recordings yet by the nascent Beach Boys, this time mastered by engineer, producer, mixer and long-time Brian Wilson associate Mark Linett, recently seen playing Brian’s engineer Chuck Britz in the film Love and Mercy (2014).

Although only three of finished numbers (Surfin’ Surfin’Safari and Surfer Girl) have come to be regarded as iconic early Beach Boys’ songs, in the manner of other recent collections, like the Smile Sessions box set, this is a fine example of rock archaeology and it pays to listen to the evolution of a song and the ways the Boys change their contributions and the tone of their vocals. Surfer Girl is a particularly good example of this, with the first take painted in much darker hues than the version we're familiar with and missing the lyrics to the bridge.

Lavender, a sentimental tale of lost love written by Dorinda Morgan, shows already how mature and skilful a vocal arranger Brian Wilson already was and the finished version is fleshed out with some stylish jazz-inflected stand-up bass by Al Jardine and guitar licks by the 15 year-old Carl Wilson.

The astute among you may have noticed that there would appear to be the odd take missing (take four of Luaua, for example), but what is presented here is what's left. Either there were no other takes or the tapes are missing.

Jim Murphy’s excellent liner notes complement the set, filling in the gaps and explaining the genesis of songs like, Surfin’, which came about as a result of a Mike Love and Dennis Wilson fishing trip during which they discussed surf instrumentals and wondered why nobody had sung about the topic.

The band’s early influences are clear: from the jazzy Four Freshmen-style vocal arrangements of Lavender, to the doo-wop (via Jan and Dean’s Baby Talk) of Surfin’, to the Chuck Berry influenced Surfin’ Safari, to the surf guitar in Carl’s Beach Boy Stomp (aka Karate).

The set closes with two songs by Kenny and the Cadets from March 1962 – Brian and Carl and their mother Audree, with Al and Val Poliuto of the Jaguars singing over two pre-recorded tracks written by the Morgans (though credited to their son, Bruce to help him on the way as a songwriter).

A month later and The Beach Boys are making the demos at Western Recorders that would secure them a contract with Capitol and their first album, Surfin’ Safari.

For the dedicated fan, this is a fascinating and revealing picture of the birth of a band who would become one of a handful of major players in the development of rock music.


This seems like as good as time as any to remind you that Jim Murphy is the author of the excellent book, Becoming the Beach Boys 1961 - 1963 (McFarland), to which this release is a companion. This was featured here with review and interview:

Here’s Jim’s excellent website that serves as a companion to his book – and so much more:

If you want more on Al’s early history, check out Andrew G. Doe’s In The Beginning:

Another excellent tome cvering the early history of the band is Jon Stebbins’ The Lost Beach Boy: The True Story of David Marks, One of the Founding Members of the Beach Boys (Virgin Books)

Now if only Omnivore could release their Dennis Wilson compilation …

Sunday 28 August 2016

Cuckoo: A Celebration of Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy

"A film in the BBC TV Omnibus series, first screened in December 1974 with a repeat the following year. This major project remains a key work among Laurel & Hardy documentaries, offering constructive examination (not analysis) of well-chosen clips, intelligent narration (delivered by Britain's top double-act, Morecambe and Wise), appropriate stills and, perhaps of the greatest value, interviews with surviving friends, relatives and colleagues. Many of these are no longer with us: producer Hal Roach; Babe's widow Lucille; composer T. Marvin Hatley; Jean 'Babe' London; early Laurel producer Joe Rock; journalist Kenneth Tyson, whose 1950s review of their stage act remains among the better tributes; and documentary-maker Basil Wright, always one of the team's champions in the UK. Others include actress Dorothy Granger, biographer John McCabe, mime artist Marcel Marceau, critic Dilys Powell and comedians Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis, Bob Monkhouse and Spike Milligan. At least 40 of the Laurel & Hardy films are incorporated, if only through momentary fragments. Some are presented more than cleverly: Angora Love and Be Big are intercut during a routine common to both films, while Ollie's request to see 'the future Mrs Hardy' (in Oliver the Eighth) precedes an interview with his widow. Footage of Our Wife is mixed with home movie film of Babe London with Stan Laurel, seemingly watching themselves on TV. Other peripheral footage includes colour home movies of an older Laurel playing with Laurel & Hardy marionettes, amateur film of their 1932 UK trip, 1947 coverage of the team's visit to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway plus a glimpse of Laurel solo in The Noon Whistle (1923). Flaws are that Laurel's birthdate is given as 1895 instead of 1890 (common in earlier publicity) and footage from Come Clean, showing the pair acting like children, is used with the explanation for their behaviour deleted. The post-Roach output is treated very sweepingly, although there are many aficionados who would encourage this trend. The programme, written and produced by Robert Vas, attracted much favourable attention in its day and one can only lament its subsequent disappearance."

Glenn Mitchell, The Laurel and Hardy Encyclopaedia

On the other hand, maybe there is some good news:

Friday 26 August 2016

Dead Poets Society #6 Philip Larkin: Going

Image result for philip larkin

Going by Philip Larkin

There is an evening coming in
Across the fields, one never seen before,
That lights no lamps.

Silken it seems at a distance, yet
When it is drawn up over the knees and breast
It brings no comfort.

Where has the tree gone, that locked
Earth to the sky? What is under my hands,
That I cannot feel?

What loads my hands down?

Thursday 25 August 2016

Tuesday and Wednesday's set lists in York

The Three Tuns, Coppergate: -
Love Song
Into The Light
You've Got A Friend
Heart Of Gold
You're Sixty*
Tell Me Why
I Don't Want To Talk About It

* I've taken to singing Johnny Burnette's classic with a twist - "you're sixty, you're beautiful and you're mine". More tasteful I think, and amusing - the audience certainly agreed. A quiet pub with 4 or 5 players, but a very attentive and appreciative audience. After downing my free pint for playing, I made my way to the second venue of the night.

Sotano, Little Stonegate: -
Out On The Weekend
Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Sotano is a basement bar with an excellent open mic night. The place was rammed when I arrived (10:15-ish). Already the list of players was into the early hours and that with only 2 songs each. It must have been 1:25am when I finally took to the stage, after drinking with my foot on the break pedal - £4.50 a schooner!! nevertheless there were plenty of punters giving it some. While at the bar I was approached by a Canadian lass who had noticed my Neil Young t-shirt. Her favourite song was Out On The Weekend, or as she described it "the one that goes see the lonely boy", so I obliged. Luckily there was just time for another free drink before I headed off.

The Habit: -
Ron Elderly: -
Just My Imagination
You Better Move On

Da Elderly: -
Things We Said Today
One Of These Days

The Elderly Brothers: -
All I Have To Do Is Dream
When Will I Be Loved

Medley: Sweet Caroline/Hi Ho Silver Lining

Ron Elderly: -
Make You Feel My Love

Da Elderly: -
Baby What You Want Me To Do
Laurel Canyon Home

Our usual host was taking a night off and the organisation was rather more....err....organised. 2 songs each or 3 for a duo. When everyone had had a turn, the rota started again. The place was pretty full all night and there was the usual variety of players including an excellent harmonica player, a lad on ukulele and a raucous duo (double bass & guitar). I invited the harmonica chap to join me on my last two bluesy numbers. The lad on ukulele finished off the night with a wonderfully dextrous instrumental arrangement of the Queen/Bowie classic Under Pressure.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Antony Jay RIP

Sir Antony Jay obituary
Co-writer of Yes Minister, BBC TV’s satire on the mechanics of government

Stephen Bates
The Guardian
Tuesday 23 August 2016

Sir Antony Jay, who has died aged 86, was one of the two authors behind the influential 1980s BBC government satire Yes Minister and its successor Yes, Prime Minister. It was a broadcasting triumph that not only intrigued and attracted the civil service caste and politicians from Margaret Thatcher downwards, but has echoed around the world – with sales to 84 countries – and reverberated in spin-off books and a successful West End adaptation of Yes, Prime Minister.

The idea of a hapless politician, constantly thwarted, outwitted and occasionally saved by wilier, more devious, civil servants struck a resonant chord among viewers in democracies from Europe to Australia and the US, and taught viewers valuable, if cynical, lessons about the shortcomings of governments. While it did not make Jay’s fortune – he and his co-author Jonathan Lynn were paid £1,200 an episode between them – it did establish him as an occasional media commentator of trenchant rightwing views on Westminster and Whitehall politics forever afterwards.

The series had its genesis in Jay’s much earlier experience as a young TV producer on the groundbreaking BBC nightly news programme Tonight in the late 50s and early 60s. The live broadcasts were among the first to interview politicians robustly and to report the news occasionally irreverently. What it taught Jay was the conceit and vulnerability of ministers when viewed at close quarters. “You saw a lot of politicians were just puppets,” he told the Irish Times in 2013. “I realised these compromises, driven by conflicts between ministers and permanent secretaries, had huge comic potential.”

Nevertheless it took nearly 20 years for the programme to get off the ground, the 38 episodes of the two series between 1979 and 1988 coinciding with the Thatcher government. Its success was not only down to the crunchingly authentic-seeming verbal jousts between the main characters but to the casting of Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker, the harassed and permanently alarmed minister at the fictional Ministry for Administrative Affairs, and Nigel Hawthorne as his feline permanent secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, refereed by Derek Fowlds as the private secretary Bernard Woolley. Eddington, seeing where the laughs were, had originally wanted to play Sir Humphrey, but was persuaded of the comic potential of the minister. Nonetheless, he then watched Hawthorne win four Baftas without winning any himself as the series progressed.

The writers themselves were not even invited to the Bafta ceremonies at which the programmes eventually won a total of seven awards. Their partnership was successful despite their different political allegiances: Jay, the rightwing free marketer, researched and supplied the plot lines and Lynn, the left-leaning actor, provided the jokes and dialogue.

The scripts were closely based on detailed research and conversations with former political advisers and ministers, including Marcia Williams and Bernard Donoughue, who had been members of Harold Wilson’s staff at 10 Downing Street, and the scenarios were sometimes derived from real incidents. The distinction between a ministry’s policy and its minister’s policy came from a Civil Service College lecture by Barbara Castle that Jay attended in 1972.

The undatedness of the plot lines arose because the original scripts were written well in advance of transmission – some actually during the era of the Callaghan government in the late 70s – so they could not take their topicality from current events later. “We often had to write months ahead of transmission … it means you can’t put in little topical jokes that will be funny tomorrow but meaningless months later,” Jay said. “Our jokes were about permanent things rather than temporary things and they stayed relevant.”

Thatcher became a fan, identifying so closely with the series that she even insisted on writing a sketch for the characters in 1984 before a National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association award ceremony. Lynn, Hawthorne and Eddington were reluctant participants, not least because the prime minister’s sense of humour was notoriously non-existent, but also because they did not wish to be associated with a partisan event, since the whole point was that Hacker’s politics were never identified. Jay, however, was happy to indulge the prime minister: “I was a great supporter of Margaret Thatcher: she was very nice about it. It gave us lots of publicity,” he said.

Jay and Lynn had met at a company called Video Arts that Jay had formed with John Cleese in 1972, after he had left the BBC. It was set up to make training documentaries about business management. The humorous approach, tackling issues such as how not to interview candidates and how not to sell things – described by Lynn as the comedy of cock-up – was wildly successful, and Lynn, who had been in the Cambridge Footlights with Cleese, was recommended to Jay when Cleese left to write Fawlty Towers. The company, which started with £4,000, was eventually sold for £44m in 1989.

By then Yes, Prime Minister – the sequel series in which Hacker fortuitously reaches Downing Street – had come to an end in the UK, and Lynn was leaving for Hollywood to become a film director. The two teamed up again more than 20 years later to write a stage play based on the same characters, though with new actors, since Eddington and Hawthorne had both died, and Fowlds was too old to return as Bernard. The stage Yes, Prime Minister came to the West End in 2010 and also toured the US. The afterlife continued in a spin-off television series featuring the same characters, broadcast by the Gold satellite channel.

Born in London, Antony was the son of Ernest Jay, a character actor who appeared in a number of British films in the 30s and 40s, and his wife, Catherine Hay, also an actor. He was educated on a scholarship at St Paul’s school, west London, and studied classics and comparative philology at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He claimed to have spent his time at university playing bridge and cricket and writing for university magazines before knuckling down to study and being awarded a first-class degree.

After national service as a second lieutenant in the Royal Signals, in 1955 he joined the BBC and was in at the start of the Tonight programme as a producer. Broadcast live, with limited technical resources, the show centred on its unflappable presenter Cliff Michelmore, who could be relied upon to cope with films breaking down and guests held up in traffic. But it was also a training ground not only for onscreen journalists but also for producers and directors such as Jay, Alasdair Milne and Michael Peacock. Jay became the programme’s editor (1962-63), and left BBC TV as head of talks features (1963-64) to become a freelance writer and producer.

Following the sale of Video Arts and the success of the Yes Minister series, Jay retired to Somerset, from where he produced a stream of works on management techniques, spin-off books including Jim Hacker’s diaries and How to Beat Sir Humphrey: Every Citizen’s Guide to Fighting Officialdom (1997) and even a handbook, Not in Our Back Yard: How to Run a Protest Campaign and Save the Neighbourhood (2005), about organising community resistance to planning proposals for the likes of wind farms and road schemes.

There was also a regular stream of articles, many attacking his old employers at the BBC, for receptive papers such as the Daily Mail and Telegraph. He insisted that the corporation was institutionally leftwing, and in 2011 he called for it to be reduced to Radio 4 and BBC1: “What more do we need? The case for a drastic slimming-down gets stronger every day.”

Jay was knighted in 1988, at about the time Yes, Prime Minister ended, though apparently for his much earlier work as a producer of the Queen’s Christmas broadcasts. His final collaboration with Lynn came in the Guardian earlier this month, with Sir Humphrey welcoming a new Brexit minister.

In 1957 he married Jill Watkins. She survives him, along with their children, Mike, Roni, Kate and David.

• Antony Rupert Jay, writer and producer, born 20 April 1930; died 21 August 2016

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Toots Thielemans RIP

Toots Thielemans, Jazz Harmonica Player, Is Dead at 94

Peter Keepnews
New York Times
22 August 2016

Toots Thielemans, one of the only musicians to have a successful career as a jazz harmonica player, died on Monday in Brussels. He was 94.

The death was confirmed by Mr. Thielemans’s agency, which did not specify a cause. Mr. Thielemans, who retired in 2014 for health reasons, had been hospitalized recently with a broken arm.

That Mr. Thielemans played jazz on the harmonica was unusual enough. Even more unusual was how he first gained international attention: by playing guitar and whistling in unison.

He introduced this approach in 1961 on his recording of the wistful but jaunty jazz waltz “Bluesette,” which he wrote.

The record became an international hit, and the song was his signature. It also became a jazz standard, recorded by numerous instrumentalists, among them Chet Atkins, Tito Puente and Mr. Thielemans himself, who went on to record it several more times. It was also recorded, with lyrics by Norman Gimbel, by Sarah Vaughan and other singers.

But his distinctive sound on the chromatic harmonica was Mr. Thielemans’s primary claim to fame and, especially, to fortune.

Although his name was well known in the jazz world — he performed with greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker — it was relatively unknown to the general public; his playing, on the other hand, was virtually ubiquitous.

It can be heard on the soundtracks of movies including “Midnight Cowboy” and “The Getaway.” It was featured in television commercials and on records by, among many others, Ms. Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, who once called Mr. Thielemans “one of the greatest musicians of our time.” For more than four decades, it has been heard in the opening theme music of “Sesame Street.”

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidore Thielemans was born on April 29, 1922, in Brussels, where his parents owned a cafe. He offered various explanations over the years for how he came to be known as Toots, sometimes saying he chose the name himself and at others saying it was given to him; whatever the truth, the name was apparently borrowed from two American jazz musicians, Nuncio Mondello and Salvador Camarata, who both went by Toots.Photo

Musically inclined from an early age, he began playing the accordion at 3 and took up the harmonica in his teens. A few years later, inspired by Django Reinhardt, a fellow Belgian, he began playing guitar, as well. By the end of World War II he had become a full-time musician.

In 1949, he shared the stage with Charlie Parker at the Paris Jazz Festival, and a year later he toured Europe as the guitarist in a sextet led by Benny Goodman. He moved to the United States in 1951 and eventually became a citizen.

From 1953 to 1959, he was a member of the British jazz pianist George Shearing’s popular quintet. He mostly played guitar with Mr. Shearing, but his harmonica work was featured on at least one number at every performance. It was also showcased on the handful of albums he recorded as a leader in those years.

After leaving the Shearing group, Mr. Thielemans became a busy studio musician, even spending a few years on staff at ABC. But he remained active in jazz, with the harmonica now his main instrument. He toured frequently, and occasionally recorded as the leader of a small group, for the rest of his life.

Most of his albums presented him in a straightforward jazz context, but late in his career they took on a more international color. On “The Brasil Project,” released in 1992, and a follow-up, released the next year, he collaborated with Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil and other prominent Brazilian artists. And on the 1998 album “Chez Toots” he returned to his roots, leading a group of French and Belgian musicians in a program of French songs.

Playing a set in New York a few months after turning 80, Mr. Thielemans “seemed dazzled by his glorious sunset, and found shelter under the umbrella of sophisticated schmaltz,” Ben Ratliff wrote in The New York Times, adding: “He’s in good shape, only losing wind at the end of a long string of notes; but he finds off-centered rhythms, attaining a little bit of freedom, knocking his instrument from side to side for tremolos.”

Albert II, then the king of Belgium, bestowed on Mr. Thielemans the honorary title of baron in 2001. The country’s prime minister, Charles Michel, said on Monday, “We have lost a great musician, a warm personality.”

The National Endowment for the Arts named Mr. Thielemans a jazz master for 2009, the highest honor that can be accorded a jazz musician in the United States. “I accept this distinction with pride and emotion,” he said at the time, adding that he had only “played at music” until a Louis Armstrong record in 1940 provided “instant contamination” and changed the direction of his life.

Mr. Thielemans lived in La Hulpe, a suburb of Brussels. Information on survivors was not immediately available.

In March 2006, Mr. Thielemans was the guest of honor at an all-star Carnegie Hall tribute concert, with the pianist Herbie Hancock and the clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera among the performers. Reviewing the concert for The Times, Nate Chinen praised both Mr. Thielemans’s “exuberantly expressive” playing and his infectious spirit.

“No one stole the spotlight from Mr. Thielemans,” he wrote. “He was having giddy fun, and the feeling was contagious.”

Monday 22 August 2016

Saturday 20 August 2016


Native American protesters halted pipeline construction in Cannon Ball, N.D.
Despite President Obama banning the Keystone Pipeline proposal, the consortium of Canadian and U.S. oil companies have done a deal with separate state governments to establish a different pipeline, which they will run under the Missouri River at Bismarck, North Dakota.  If the same level of flooding that has affected Louisiana this week occurs, you could have a major disaster with the water polluted by millions of gallons of tar-sands oil from a pipe break that would damage the Missouri-Mississippi drainage system for generations.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

Native Communities Stand Up To Proposed Oil Pipeline: ‘This Is Keystone 3’

Katie Valentine
5 May 2016

By some accounts, the Dakota Access oil pipeline seems like done deal. Iowa, the last state out of the four the pipeline would cut through to grant a permit, approved the pipeline in March, leaving the project with just one federal approval to gain. And the company in charge of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, appears to not be waiting until that federal permit is granted: It’s already started construction on the 1,154-mile pipeline.

But for the native tribes affected by the pipeline, the fight is far from over. Tribes have written letters to government agencies, met with the Army Corps of Engineers — which is responsible for issuing the final permit for the pipeline — and have launched a campaign, called Rezpect our Water, against the pipeline. They’ve even set out on a 500-mile relay run in protest of the project.

“Even in South America and Canada, we have seen the devastation of a culture because of oil leaks and oil spills and we just don’t want that to happen here to us,” Doug Crow Ghost, director of water resources for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, told Think Progress.

The The Dakota Access pipeline, also referred to as the Bakken pipeline, would carry oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The project, which was proposed in 2014, once had a route that would cross the Missouri River upstream of Bismarck, North Dakota. But that proposal was changed, according to Earthjustice, because of worries that the pipeline would impact drinking water for the people of Bismarck. Now, the proposed route would run downstream to the reservation — despite the fact that the Standing Rock Sioux also get their drinking water from the Missouri.

A leak in the pipeline, which would cross under the Missouri River twice, could decimate water supplies for the tribe, Crow Ghost said. But it’s not just water supplies he’s worried about: There are also plants that live along the riverbank that are crucial for cultural reasons, and an oil spill could destroy them.

“There are cottonwood stands along the Missouri and its tributaries, and buffalo berries, sage, and mouse bean that we use,” he said. “There are so many different ones. I couldn’t even begin to name them.”

Crow Ghost and other members of the tribe wrote letters to multiple state and government agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Civil Works, the states of North Dakota and South Dakota, the EPA, and the Army Corps of Engineers, outlining their concerns with the pipeline. After receiving the letters, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation all wrote letters of their own to the Army Corps of Engineers, asking the agency to complete a revised version of its Environmental Assessment that looks more closely at the proposed pipeline’s impact on water sources for native communities and at concerns over environmental justice issues that the pipeline poses.

“The routing of a 12- to 30-inch crude oil pipeline in close proximity to and upstream of the Reservation is of serious concern to the Department,” the Department of Interior writes in its letter. “A spill could impact the waters that the Tribe and individual tribal members residing in that area rely upon for drinking and other purposes,” it continues. “We believe that, if the pipeline’s current route along the edge of the Reservation remains an option, the potential impact on trust resources in this particular situation necessitates full analysis and disclosure of potential impacts through the preparation of an [Environmental Impact Statement].”

Currently, the Army Corps is working to complete Environmental Assessments (EA) for the 37 miles of the pipeline’s route that are under the Corps’ control. These 37 miles include segments of the route that cross federal land, including the two crossings of the Missouri River. The rest of the pipeline route was under the jurisdiction of the states, said Eileen Williamson, spokesperson for the Omaha district of the Army Corps. If the Corps does find that the pipeline, in the areas examined, does have the potential to cause significant environmental effects, a more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement will be required. The Corps also has the ability to take the letters from the EPA, Interior, and ACHP into account when it completes its assessments and include a direct response to the offices in the Environmental Assessment, she said.

The agencies, in their March letters, also recommended that the Army Corps provide more consultation with tribes over the pipeline — the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation wrote it was “perplexed by the Corps’ apparent difficulties in consulting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.” Williamson said that Army Corps representatives have “attended three comprehensive consultation meetings with representatives from numerous tribes,” including a meeting with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe last week.

Still, Kelly Morgan, Tribal historic preservation officer and archaeologist for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said she wished the Army Corps had consulted more with the tribe. There have been meetings, she said, but she didn’t view them as formal, government-to-government consultations — though that is how the Army Corps classifies them.

“As the tribal archaeologist, this whole area has a very rich cultural history,” she said. “There are burials out there, cultural sites, and habitation sites” that have spanned multiple generations. During one of the meetings with the Army Corps, Crow Ghost took an officer to see a burial ground that would be impacted by the pipeline, a region that’s off the property of the reservation but “is still aboriginal territory of our people.”Nobody wants their church to be desecrated, and the earth is our church.

“We want to protect that. That was a village. We hold that in high regard because of our relatives that are still buried in that area,” he said. “Nobody wants their church to be desecrated,” he added, “and the earth is our church.”

It’s with that sentiment in mind that youths from multiple tribes in the path of the pipeline set out on a 500-mile relay run last week to deliver a petition against the pipeline to the Army Corps Omaha District office. The petition calls on the Army Corps to complete an Environmental Impact Statement on the pipeline before permitting it to cross the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers.

“We are borrowing this land from our grandchildren so we need to take care of our main life source: water,” Roni Starlin, Santee Nebraska tribal citizen, and one of the coordinators of the run, said in a statement. “Without clean water we will cease to survive, thus exterminating our own existence. We are running for our future generations.”

So far, it’s not clear when the Environmental Assessment will be released — it was projected to be early May, but Williamson said there’s no clear timeline because the Army Corps needs time to go through the comments it received on its draft EA. If there’s anything related to environmental concerns in those comments, she said, the Army Corps needs to determine whether those concerns have already been addressed or still need to be. And the Corps has received a lot of comments, she said, stressing that the agency at its core was neither a proponent or an opponent of the project.

If the Army Corps does find in its Environmental Assessments that the pipeline won’t create a significant impact on the environment, and decides to grant a permit for the project, tribe members aren’t backing down. Crow Ghost said the tribe had talked about next steps if that happens, but wasn’t ready to share what they were just yet. Earthjustice and other environmental groups, including the Indigenous Environmental Network, have been working with the tribes, as have been some landowners along the pipeline’s proposed route.

“In my way of looking at this, as the tribal archaeologist, this is Keystone three,” Morgan said, adding that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was strongly opposed to that pipeline too. “We’re just at the beginning.”

From Think Progress

Lean more and sign the petition at

Thanks to Mike Cowdrey

Friday 19 August 2016

Dead Poets Society #5 William Stafford: Travelling Through the Dark

Traveling Through The Dark by William Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

John Maher's Nobody's Home exhibition at The Lighthouse, Glasgow 2016

Nobody's Home
Ex-Buzzcocks drummer John Maher photographs abandoned crofts in the Outer Hebrides – complete with sheep skeletons, tin walls and Technicolor interiors

Parallel Lines

Blue Chair Last

Waiting Room

Tin and Stone

Bedroom and Chapel, Ensay

Rust in Peace, Isle of Scalpay

TV Set

Nobody's Home, Isle of Lewis

Say Hello to: Nobody’s Home Exhibition 22 Jul – 31 Aug
Level Two

Nobodys Home - an exhibition featuring the work of photographer - and former Buzzcocks drummer - John Maher is part of Architecture and Design Scotland’s Say Hello to Architecture Programme, at the Lighthouse, Glasgow, on 21st of July. The exhibition captures abandoned crofts from across the Outer Hebrides.

At 16 years of age John Maher was recruited as a member of the punk band the Buzzcocks, and a number of chart hits followed, before the band broke up in 1981. In 2002, John relocated from his hometown of Manchester to the Isle of Harris, where he lives and works today. John’s photographs of decaying man-made objects set against a backdrop of stunning Hebridean landscapes have appeared in a wide variety of publications.

Speaking ahead of the opening of the exhibition, John Maher said, “Taking this exhibition to Glasgow is the realisation of a long held ambition. What started out as a personal project – documenting abandoned croft houses in the Outer Hebrides – has had an unexpected side effect. As a result of displaying my photographs, there’s now a real possibility of seeing at least one of the properties becoming a family home once again. Putting on this exhibition in collaboration with the team at Architecture and Design Scotland means Nobody’s Home is about more than pictures on a gallery wall. It shows that looking through a lens to the past, can help shape things in the future.”

John initially photographed in the dead of night, under the light of a full moon, and many of his night photographs involve lighting the interiors of old buildings, vehicles and boats scattered around the Hebridean landscape. In several instances he would return during daylight hours to shoot the interiors of abandoned croft houses he’d visited the night before. This was the beginning of a new way of photographing the islands, which ultimately led to the Nobody’s Home project.

As a direct result of seeing John’s images of abandoned croft houses, the Western Isles’ housing body, Tighean Innse Gall, in conjunction with the Carnegie Trust, have set in motion a plan to renovate some of the derelict properties.

Pictures from

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Back Through The Opera Glass: The Beach Boys Album Covers Project

Here's a terrific site that has links to an excellent, comprehensive three part, 470 page downloadable project by Malcolm C. Searles that tells the stories behind the cover art on all The Beach Boys' albums from Surfin' Safari to That's Why God made the Radio, with contributions from band insiders, artists and designers.

It's on Facebook, but you don't have to join the Evil Empire to download it! Yay!

Check it out here:

Ought to be in a book, of course...Helter Skelter Publishing maybe...