Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mighbrow: The Swimmer

There's a wonderful book, 'Waterlog' by Roger Deakin where, inspired by John Cheever's short story 'The Swimmer', Deakin sets off on an adventure to swim across Britain. His plan was to swim rivers, dykes, lakes and tarns, even caves and whirlpools; and to engage in a whole range of 'Wild Swimming' experiences. He encounters much resistance; but asks: ramblers have rights; why not swimmers? 

To quote the book's cover, it is indeed a "delicious, cleansing, funny, wise and joyful book, so wonderfully full of energy and life." 
Deakin is eccentric but a real enthusiast and that energy is infectious. He's no longer with us but his writings remain to help lead us back to the joys of nature. 
Read also: 'Wildwood' and 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm'.
I think that we've all experienced and acknowledged the restorative benefits to be taken from immersing ourselves in water. The wilder the setting and the more we expose ourselves, the more intoxicating the effect. I've taken many a knacker shriveling swim in rivers and rock pools in the Corsican mountains and then later made it back to the beach for a sunset swim in the day warm sea. 
I'm always left feeling reinvigorated, exuberant; refreshed and ready for the next adventure.

The Swimmer

The swimmer leaves the shore
To test his mortality

He is the sole, vital engine
His actions keep him alive
The alternative is unthinkable
But possible

His discomfort is self-imposed
A discipline to ward off
That prize possession of middle age

I shrink against the cold
Eyes sting
I do this to myself
Float then move my arms
Against the indifferent current

There is no disappointment
In the primitive simplicity of this moment
I must move to survive
And that begs the question
Do I need my life?

No wiser, but replenished, reassured
I turn my back to the kindling sun
And reach for the uncertain shore

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 1

OK, so I'm trawling the back pages, but judging from the sales of 'Hopeland' and 'Keepers' this is probably new to a lot of folk.
I'm about to release 'Ghost of Song', an album of selected songs from those two albums, an attempt to kindle some interest in the material; I'd hate for it to be buried. 
Rereading these notes from the island I can see that I do come over a bit earnest but I think that was a reaction to the austere beauty of the place; I hope that you'll indulge my affectation. I'll try and sneak in a few jokes just to lighten things up a bit; see if you can spot them.
There'll be the odd download also.
So, here's a reminder of the stories behind 'Hopeland' and 'Keepers', my 'Notes from Corsica':


 “In short withdrawals from the world there is to be had unfailing refreshment. 
When his spirit is burdened or lightened, the natural movement of a man’s heart is to lift upward, 
and this is more readily done in the wild, for there it is easy to be still.”
W. H. Murray

There is a house on a hill that sits beneath a mountain that overlooks the sea. 
This past year I retreated there, more in hope than expectation. The hope was that I could integrate 
with an environment, have a daily purpose, however mundane, and to somehow reflect that in my writing.
The ripe confusions of London had rendered me emotionally barren; I needed to connect with 
something real, something fine. I wanted to tell the story of how I came to be there. 
Unburdened, I started to write:

I see a blue tractor, my first memory.
Then blue sea, white dog, a red sand filled bucket.
Now I have the taste of metal in my mouth.
Why is that memory tainted with sadness?
There’s my mother in a headscarf, wiping ice cream from Gareth’s mouth. 
Dad is doing the same for Katy who is too young to do anything but gurgle up at us from her pram.
‘The dog went to you, not to me” Kerry jabs her finger at me accusingly and my knees start to sing.
I look down and they are covered in red magic.
I turn to face the wind and, opening my mouth, taste the sea.


This is no autobiography or travelogue, just the story of what happened to Di and I and how it changed 
our view of the world where a life touched a life and then took on a life of its own.
They say that stories only happen to those who can tell them.
It seems to me that if we want our stories to endure they must be well crafted and durable. 
For any songwriter there is a peculiar endevour involved in committing words to song, and then in the  recording of that song. This labour can do nothing but alter the initial perception or idea. The joy of committing words to a page is that you can narrow the distance between the seeing and the writing. 
You can better capture the vividity of a feeling without memory’s intrusion. Writing is something out of nothing; now when I have nothing to say, I watch and I listen. There’s an undercurrent of meaning to everything; you could call it ‘sadness’ or find brightness there, depending on your disposition 
or how sharp your eye is.
Here in Corsica time moves so slowly that I can see the changes, and ask ‘what is the difference?’
Here, atop the mountain I have become less desperate for certainty and more open to possibility.
I have real thirst, real hunger.
I taste the water.
I taste my food.
I hear the music.
I sleep on books.
There is time enough for tomorrow. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Limbo Diaries. 1

I was listening to Limbo the other day first the first time in an age.
I really enjoyed it; it's far enough away for me now to stop me worrying about high hat patterns or dodgy vocals.
I then came across the archives of the diaries that Marcus and I wrote at the time. I'm going to post them and offer up a download (at the end of every post) of a song that might be mentioned.
We did a similar thing for Glow so I might publish those once I've exhausted these.
So, here you are, unedited, I give you... 
The Limbo Diaries:

TJ: With new recordings in the offing, and a website worth shouting about at (redesigned by Max) we're going to keep a new diary of the sessions, as folk seemed to like to the last one. So, why a new album? I like the hole I've dug for myself, I like how songwriting, singing and working with Marcus affects my world. It defines me, gives me a creative outlet, a canvas and some hopeful dreams. There is no reason to stop.
Marcus and I are always hopeful on the release of a new album. It's still early days for 'Glow', but even with great reviews, and generous airplay (some of it prime-time Radio 2) it seems that we might be swimming in the same water. We resolve to do some gigs to try and break the cycle.

TJ: Onto the M25 for that joyous journey, arrive at Marcus's studio after 2 hours in the company of Roy Harper. I've just bought a retrospective of his work (‘Counter Culture’) and am surprised at how much his stuff has stayed with me. I remember loving 'HQ' when it first came out, for the ambition of the songwriting ('Hallucinating Light') the beauty of Roy's singing and his affecting use of nostalgia ('When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease') and for Chris Spedding's fantastic guitar work (he used to be a Womble you know?)
I really believed that the 'Glow' sessions would be the last time we recorded at Norbury Brook, so this comes as a happy bonus; amazing what you can come to take for granted; people and places. Same cracked mugs, same mad cat, one new guitar (a battered but lovely old Gibson) and Marcus (also battered but lovely) burning incense rather than spraying that inner nose stripping air freshener! He'll be wearing a kaftan next...look our for a sitar solo!
We always look for a working title. I'm struck by the word 'Limbo' for 3 reasons: firstly it kind of sums up the Miracle Mile's position in the music world, secondly it relates to Marcus's emotional and domestic circumstance, and thirdly because I’ve just driven past some orange boxes with'Limbo' written on the side! Friday the 13th seems a fateful date to start our recordings; maybe it'll bring us there's a title; 'Lucky Limbo'?
I play Marcus a couple of things: firstly a song called '(Love Letters and) Long Goodbyes'. This one's fairly close to home, and we both share a 'fly in the eye' moment. Marcus puts down a basic click track while I strum away a waltz on my Taylor. One take Willie! As the mic is up and warm, I go straight into a second song 'Joshua's Watch', a picked piece, which I get second take. Either I'm getting better, or we're getting easier to please!
We set up the vocal mic and I fix us some lunch (smoked ham and goats cheese sarnies, very 'Jamie'!)
Record 3 passes on 'Long Goodbyes' and comp' the vocal. There's a 'Na na na' (hope I spelt that correctly!) section on which I do some harmonies, 6 high, 6 low, then on to 'Joshua's Watch'. This refers to my Grandad, Joshua Jones, who left me his favourite watch when he died. A reference in the song amuses Marcus, about me requesting "the fiver Tony Bennett signed". There's a family story about my Gramps when he was a chauffeur for the Japanese Embassy in London. A huge Tony Bennett fan, he was beside himself when asked to ferry his hero across the city. At the end of the journey he requested an autograph, but had no paper. Bennett tipped him a crisp five pound note and signed that. On the way home to my Gran’ he was so excited that he needed a fag (he used to roll his own, one handed as he drove) so he stopped for some tobacco and papers; got home, told Madge his story and went to his pockets for proof...he'd spent the fiver on his smokes! Spooky moment as Marcus is setting up for 'Joshua's Watch': the heavy metal lid of the mic case falls on him, ...cracking the face of his prized Brietling watch!
Marcus listens through, playing along with 'Long Goodbyes' on a Wurlitzer piano. There are a couple of 'jazz' chords that introduce Les Dawson to the proceedings, but he's soon shown the door, as ten thumbs become graceful digits. Marcus then gets out a bass that he's been hiding from me. It looks like something one of the Glitter Band would play, but sounds great...not for the video then. A couple of takes and he's  done. A fruitful start.

MC: Note to self: I must remember to do the diary when everything is fresh in my mind. Even though it's only been a couple of weeks since we started, I'm glad I've got Trev's notes as a reference, the exact details have already started to become a bit hazy. It is indeed a nice feeling to once again place a new Miracle Mile project folder on my audio drive (a pair of western digital 10,000 rpm raptors in a raid 0 array, for the technically minded) As Trevor pointed out we are still in the 'old' Norbury Brook studios, which will shortly be transferred to my new house, if all goes to plan. The incense spoken of was in fact expensive designer, scented candles, which I thought might set a nice tone' for the start of the new album.
'Limbo', well that’s what the folder on the drive says now, so 'Limbo' it is for the working title. Trev's right in saying that it describes my private life of the past few years, that’s the reason I'm moving house and studio to try and remove said state.
The acoustic guitar was recorded with the traditional AKG 451 but this time I used one of my new pair of Amek/Neve pre amps. Trev's vocal was recorded with the Rhode classic valve mike into the Amek/Neve pre amp. Trev is quite a sibilant singer and I've found the new mic pres help in that regard as they are quite 'thick' sounding which doesn't over emphasize the sibilance.
The bass in question on 'Long Goodbyes' is a Dan Electro Longhorn; the reason for getting it out of storage (under the stairs for the last 5 years) was  that Trev and I watched a new Bruce Springsteen DVD, and I noticed the bass player was playing  the same bass, same colour even, and it sounded great. I dug it out and off we went.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Mighbrow: Occi

Di and I are normally in Corsica for Christmas and one of our traditions is to pack a picnic of bread, goat's cheese, some local charcuterie and a chilled bottle of rose (from Clos Landry) and take an early morning Christmas day walk up to Occi,  a deserted hilltop village on the north coast of Corsica. 
We sit above the village on the walls of the old bread grinding circle to eat what is invariably the best meal of the holiday.

The trail always brings out the intrepid adventurer; we encounter the occasional kindred spirit en route who invariably stop to chat. We've met some real characters; in fact we once ended up spending a whole boozy Christmas day with one Parisian couple at their holiday home in Il Rousse...
Occi sits proud above another village; the now chic Lumio. Both share one of the great views; the sweeping bay of Calvi leads the eye from sea to citadel and then up the long dappled valley towards our own little village, Montemaggiore and the mountains beyond. If you catch the light just right (early morning or late afternoon) there's an etherial beauty to the village and environs that is quite haunting. Sit under the old olive tree in the deserted square and you can hear the ancient voices and imagine the lives that once thrived there. To witness the detail of the dry stone walls that partition the surrounding fields and see within the solid shells of the surviving buildings, you can only wonder at the immense toil and intense labour that must have been invested in the establishment of such a place.
There are many local stories as to why the people deserted the village en masse a hundred years ago; the folk must have been quite exposed up there; some say the water supply dried up, some say the villagers tired of the trek from Occi down to the markets of Il Rousse and Calvi. 
Whatever the reasons, however challenging the existence, that departure must have been quite a wrench; the inhabitants who called this lofty haven 'home' must have felt daily blessed.


The walls are still standing
Not barriers built to claim
Just signs of life
That signify ‘we were here’

Their rough integrity
Promises nothing but endurance
And that endurance keeps the promise
Made by happy men
Shirtless and sure
That they would be remembered

Saturday, 26 November 2011

In Cassidy's Care (20. A Kind of Ending)

He entered the communal doorway and slid his key into the door of his flat. 
Before he had the chance to turn the key the door swung open on fractured hinges.
Turmoil; upended furniture, broken glass, scattered papers, an aroma of stale sweat, the rustle of material, a shadowy movement, a punch to the ribs. He didn’t feel much; a stinging pain as the knife entered his side, then just a dull ache that he knew to be deliverance. He dropped to his knees and gently lowered himself onto the carpet face down. His eyes watered and he blinked away the tears. From his supine position his vision was limited and darkening with every shortening breath. That run had taken it out of him. He needed to breathe deeply to control his gasping. He tried humming, that would calm his ventilation. He blinked again and focused on ‘The Cassidys’, he and his brothers standing with Harry after that final gig. The photograph lay skew on the floor with the glass and frame shattered. Next to the picture were broken pieces of terra cotta pot and damp earth. His cactus lay flaccid, like a fish out of water. Or a limp dick thought Cassidy. Was that irony or symbolism, metaphor or simile? That was one for Archie’s next breakfast question time.
He could hear movement but couldn’t raise his head.
What a weird and wonderful week, he thought.
“Say what? What’s that? Say something?”
Cassidy recognized the lisp.
“Want some more, bitch?”
Claude knelt beside him and rifled his pockets roughly.
Cassidy stared at a Rolex with a crocodile strap; Monty’s watch on Claude’s wrist. He fixed on the frozen second hand as it twitched and pulsed with every second, ineffectively pushing against an unseen resistance, and he found himself breathing in time with that retarded tick. He needed to do something but couldn’t think what that might be. He’d just lie there a little longer until he felt… less tired.
As his breath shortened Cassidy was overwhelmed by a tremendous sense of calm. And he was filled with love; he loved his parents, his brothers, Daniel and Archie, Monty, Christ, he even loved Claude. The whole wide world was in his arms and it was no burden because Cassidy cared. He started humming again, and only then did he recognize the tune.
He loved Joni Mitchell.
His fingertips caressed the carpet and he felt himself sink deeper.
“Amelia, it was just a false alarm”
The carpet rose to meet him.
“Amelia, it was just a false alarm”
The carpet absorbed him.
“Amelia, it was just a false alarm”
He stared in wonder as the detailed patterns merged into a glorious golden brown.
Cassidy closed his eyes and she turned towards him.
He saw sun splashed pigtails and the grain of her hair, all burnt copper and straw.
She simply said “Hello handsome” and that was that.


“What’s that son?”
Harry leant closer this time.
Cassidy could smell Old Spice and modeling glue. 
“Nothing Pops, just… thinking out loud.”
His mother’s voice sang out from within the beach house, “Suppers nearly ready you two. Up to the table in five minutes.”
Cassidy squinted and fixed on his cactus, searching for a word. 
Harry reached down and gently slid the turquoise pot out of their creeping shadow and into the softening light.
“Some things can’t be fixed Pete, some things are beyond repair, but it’s good that you care son; there can be a blessing to burden.” He rubbed his forehead and then rocked back into his chair, crossing his heavy hands against his chest as if nursing an injured bird.
Cassidy did the self same thing.
There was much that he needed to let go of, but not this.
He needed to hold this close, and wondered if he would.
The sun was sinking over the salt marshes and a bourbon sky gently backlit his father, ancient and immortal.
He looked into that steady eye, then down at his own shaking, outsized hands, and Cassidy realized, with some relief, that his fate was sealed.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Lovesong: Paul Buchanan: Midnight/Are You Lonesome Tonight

More from PB.
The first track 'Midnight Without You' is with smooth jazzer Chris Botti.
The second is a live track with Botti taken from a show in LA.
There are synch' problems so try squinting and just... listen.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Mighbrow: Tacit

I've just been visited by my parents Betty and Terry, who came to help celebrate my birthday.
I think that you can see the family resemblance, Di the obvious odd one out (nice teeth though.)
We opened Christmas presents. 
Di and mum baked sticky toffee pudding (which was like a couple of monkeys flying a space shuttle) while my Dad and I howled at the referees on TV (soccer and rugby); which was... like a couple of monkeys watching TV. 
They are hilarious are B&T; a bickering tour de force, that will some day be sorely missed. 
I thought that they looked a little tired until I realised that I hadn't seen them in over a year. 
Time flies for me; although I think the wheels spin slower for them. 
I must remember that...


I walk like you and bend like you
For you are my blood
Same arms
Same legs
Same lungs
Same sorrows

I will be you

When you falter and talk to shadows
Reaching for the voices
Of people long gone
I know that someday too
I will reach for your absent hand
And tell you
That I love you

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

In Cassidy's Care (19. This Sunday continued)

He returned the boys to Amelia bang on time. He even got a wave and a smile from the doorway seven steps up. From Bayswater he stepped with a spring, up through Hyde Park to Marble Arch and then along Oxford Street. At Oxford Circus he turned north up Regents Street and entered Regents Park at its southern end. Without thinking he broke into a steady jog. He passed the boating lake and the bandstand and at the northern edge he turned east on the outer circle until he reached the zoo. He then turned north towards the southern slopes of Primrose Hill, following the now familiar path to the brow of the hill. As he surged up the slope Cassidy was giddy with hope; for the first time in an age he felt that he was running towards something. An elderly man feeding fish and chips to a scruffy mongrel occupied the bench. As Cassidy approached he recognized the slippers on the man’s feet.
“Monty, what are you doing here? Fancy the chances…”
‘Ah Pete, how are you doing old boy. Not such a coincidence really; you’ve rattled on about this bench so many times that I thought I’d come and see what all the fuss was about. It’s quite a setting.” Monty nodded southward “What a city?
Cassidy stretched and eyed the view. “How’s the healing Monty?”
“Oh, fine, fine, though gently does it; weeping wounds… As you can see I’ve become more discerning about the company I keep.” He patted the dog. “My new best friend. I’ve decided to call him Claude.”
“To protect you from his namesake?”
“No, that particular son of a bitch is long gone. I decided that I needed some reliable company; I took at trip down to the dog’s home in Battersea. I never could resist a pathetic stray. Our eyes met and I think that we both recognized a kindred spirit. He’s a good egg. We’re well suited; we’ll stop each other from wandering.
“Speaking of which,” said Cassidy jogging on the spot “I’ve got to keep moving or I’ll seize up. See you back at the ranch Monty.”
“Indeed. Cheerio old boy.”
Cassidy patted Claude, helped himself to a chip from the greasy paper bag and then turned back down the slope, exiting the park at Elsworthy Terrace. Picking up the pace he crossed the Finchley Road at Swiss Cottage and was soon at the front door of his apartment block in West Hampstead. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Work in Progress. Norbury Brook gets its long trousers...

I loved the old Norbury Brook studio; home from home, it was a confusion of wires and guitars as you can see (right).
And that was the 'tidy corner'. 
And it was blue...

There was a cosy atmosphere and a champagne bar that was always open (witness the 2nd photo; featuring the scientist, the hunchback and the lovely Mr BJ Cole around the time of recording 'Glow'.)

Things are coming on apace with the new version.
Marcus is now on the interior design...
It's all very sleek.
Looks to me like the Star Ship Enterprise's flight deck has been re-imaged by MFI.
Whatever happened to desks that you could sniff cocaine off and shag on (or under)?
Where's the whiff of joss stick?
And where's the tape machine?
And the axes?
Christ, I bet there's even an espresso machine in the pool room.
There is a pool room, right, Marcus?

I'm imagining that Mr Cliffe will be wearing a black polo neck jumper for his first debut session; and he hates wearing black polo necks.
I once forced him to wear one for a photo shoot.
He wasn't happy.
I'll try and dig out a copy or two...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Mighbrow: A Truth Revealed

My Uncle Mike and I were close; a lot of the stuff on 'Keepers' was a reaction to his illness and subsequent death. As any member of my family will tell you, I'm not great at keeping in touch, but I did my best with Mike, getting over to see him in Felixstowe whenever possible. 
On his feet he was fine, seemingly unbreakable; once his legs went the stuffing went out of the man. This was written after a later visit. 
I changed his gender to make it less specific; maybe as a way of distancing myself from the inevitable.

A Truth Revealed

She sits grey and golden
Wearing nothing but a smile
Which promises too much

That holy half-light
Softens the facts
Hard and unwholesome

Her face sets like a broken spell
A truth revealed
Milky blue eyes fix me with a question

No one asked me to do this
I chose to

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Lovesong: Paul Buchanan: Duets and an oddity: Sleep/Here Comes the Rain Again/Message of Love

Here are some unusual bedfellows for PB.
First up we have Paul singing 'Sleep' live in Abbey Road with Texas.
Then there's the man duetting on Here Comes the Rain Again with Annie Lennox who is dressed as Micky Mouse and over-emoting as usual. It makes you realise that controlled emotion (PB) is far more engaging than all of that bellowing/wallowing/wailing nonsense...
Last up is another blast from the 80s with a cover of 'Message of Love' the Pretenders song (a bit ho hum for me...)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Mighbrow: Cardinal Cap Alley

Here are three photos of that original Miracle Mile line up.
The top shot (featuring drummer Phil Sand's nostrils) was taken in Cardinal Cap Alley, one of the oldest remaining lanes in London, venue of a famous, long gone brothel. It's on the south bank, not far from Clink Street where the old prison gave it's name to 'clink'. We had no concerns back then; happy, unfettered days; we were going to own the world. After rehearsals we'd invariably end up at The Anchor pub on the edge of the Thames and look out across the water towards St Pauls, taking in the majesty of The City, awe inspiring even then to the upstart philistines that I'm sure we were...
The history of the area is amazing; the old bear pits are nearby as is the Globe theatre and Southwark Cathedral. There's a great food market (Borough Market) that draws me back there often, and that's where the second photo was taken. Everything I'm wearing was borrowed; I had no style to call my own, and they were hard times. And in those times (late 80s) we used 'Prime Time' rehearsal studios on Clink Street; the 3rd shot is taken by the steps of that studio. 

I remember both Steve and I being taken with the name 'Cardinal Cap Alley'; we were both always on the lookout for a good song title. 
Steve recently sent me these shots with the suggestion that we finally write that song. 
I hope that we do, but I have to admit that I'd already done it; it remains unreleased but it sits under dust somewhere within Marcus's mixing desk. Here are the lyrics (no poem then). You can probably tell from the mitre that it came out as a bit of a sea shanty/drinking song. I'll hold it back for when I do that national tour of dodgy coastal pubs...
This isn't, by the way, a declaration to Steve that I got there first; more a declaration of love for old times and old mates. 
Time does wear things smooth but some edges (thankfully) remain; we are never truly released from the past...

Cardinal Cap Alley 

I took me down to the river
I took me away from the games
On the southbank I headed eastward
And tried to remember some names
From Westminster down past the eye boys
Towards Borough market I made
Some things you cannot deny boys
Memories that can never fade, oh
Memories that can never fade

Bear Pits and Bull Rings
Bankside to Clink
We’ll meet at the Anchor for the finishing drink
Raise to the boatmen and the Winchester Geese
And a past that would never release them
A past that would never release

Here’s where they took the picture
That’s already starting to fade
Here with our backs to the wall boys
Here where our names would be made
Here where the ghosts light the fires
Up by the Cardinal’s Hat
History’s rewritten by liars
What could be fairer than that boys?
What could be fairer than that?

Bear Pits and Bull Rings
From Bankside to Clink
Meet at the Anchor for the finishing drink
Raise to the boatmen and the Winchester Geese
And a past that will never release us
A past that will never release

Last night I dreamt of my father
Last night I dreamt of the sea
Last night I dreamt of an island
With nobody on it but me

So I took me down to the river
Then I took me down to the sea
The past is an indian giver
No-one knows better than me boys
No-one knows better than me

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Lovesong: Paul Buchanan: Because of Toledo

I love this song. 
It makes me think of Edward Hopper's 'Nighthawks' which perfectly reflects the song's desolate subtext; "the loneliness of a large city" (as Hopper himself put it) 
 The tension and dislocation within is palpable. 
I watched the Burt Lancaster movie 'The Killers' at the weekend (based on the Hemingway short story) and it echoes the psychological tension seen here. 
An odd synchronicity is that, when I approached Nick Reddyhoff to do the cover for the forthcoming album 'Ghost of Song' (more of that later), he chose to design the artwork with 'Nighthawks' in mind.
Nick loves Hopper as much as I do, so much so that he took the time to put himself in the picture.
Look closely at Nick's version beneath the original. 
Nick's the one with beard...

 I remember reading somewhere that the sound of Blue Nile was the perfect soundtrack for the movie that Hopper never made. Which brings me back to this
haunting acoustic version of 'Because of Toledo' from PB, followed by a really good take from some unknown who, frankly shouldn't be...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Update: Eternal is the Warrior: Big Jackie Gone...

I'm tardy as ever.
Jackie Leven died last night.
The obituaries are already flooding in, proclaiming him that great unheralded talent; his passing makes him present.
It's a shame that it's death that makes these lost souls suddenly shine so brightly.
As one anonymous blogger put it:

"Oor Jackie was a marvellous man with a huge intellect - his passing is hugely sad and leaves a massive scotsman sized hole through which a lot of sorrow will fall. Jackie told me that good things come from sadness - I would hope that this sadness will raise some long missing awareness of such a unique guy. There are so many of his lyrics that are appropriate to mark him but 'Main Travelled Roads' final lines are possibly most appropriate: 
"Eternal is the warrior who finds beauty in his wounds"

Have a look at him playing King Tut's, June 7th this year.

Lovesong: Call Mother a Lonely Field: Jackie Leven

Sad news about Jackie Leven. I'll just paste in this message from his website. I'm sure that they won't mind.
The Big Man from the Kingdom of Fife is travelling his last road. It's not unexpected, but very sad nonetheless.
I've included 'Call Mother a Lonely Field' (mentioned below) and a previously attached song 'Working Alone/A Blessing' because it's a beautiful thing...
"Please excuse this rather impersonal note. Sometimes, you have to tell people about the Bad, as well as the Good. It is with a heavy heart, therefore, that I have to relate the sad news that the great Scottish singer-songwriter JACKIE LEVEN is gravely ill, suffering from cancer, and, in all candour, has only a few days to live.
In a career stretching over forty years, Jackie Leven has carved an impressive reputation as a uniquely gifted singer-songwriter. From his emergence as leader of the underrated DOLL BY DOLL in the seventies, through well documented addiction problems which Leven overcame with remarkable strength of will, culminating in a solo resurgence through the 1980s to the here and now, Jackie has amassed an amazing body of work – the composer of over four hundred songs, including arguably his greatest song – ‘Call Mother’, from the album ‘Mystery of Love’ (ranked by Q magazine as one of ‘100 Best Albums of All Time’.
If sales didn’t always reflect the overwhelmingly positive critical reception his albums received, he nonetheless remained a perceptive writer and performer. Jackie was imbued with a restless creativity, and always searching for new settings for his ruminative lyrical forays, laced with humour and melodic grace. As a performer, Jackie could enthral and entrance the audience with picaresque tales taken from first-hand experience. Those that have worked with Jackie will know of his mordant wit and very idiosyncratic world view. His latest release, Wayside Shrines and The Code of the Travelling Man, recorded with multi-instrumentalist Michael Cosgrave was yet more proof of Leven’s enduring talent and inexhaustible creative energies."

I Sleep on Books: The Hare With the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

I was drawn to this by the rave reviews and the fact that I was 'fictioned out' at the time. I had an inkling that it might be dull as dishwater but was intrigued by the netsuke, the artifacts central to the story.  
When Edmund de Waal inherits 264 wood and ivory carvings, the Japanese netsuke enchant him so much that he carries the tactile pieces with him everywhere (in rotation) in his pockets and becomes obsessed with them. He sets out to trace their history and how they came to be in his family.
His wealthy clan turn out to have a remarkable history that is both engaging and, at times, incredibly moving. The family were originally wheat barons from Odessa, who moved to Paris and became patrons of the arts in the pivotal time of The Impressionists. The artists that the family supported eventually turned against them in the anti Semitic climate; their struggle to survive this disloyalty and treachery tells us much about human nature, and human endurance. We see 19th century Europe (and particularly fin-de-siècle Paris) in all of its glory; and get glimpses too of the political ugliness that led towards the two World Wars of the 20th century.
De Waal is a sculpture by trade and he fashions his sentences beautifully, but in a way that only folk with English as a second language seem to do; there's an exotic lyricism that is addictive. It's all strangely compelling, I love the line, "repetition wears things smooth"; an apt summation of the idea that history is written by the victors. Edmund does get up himself a bit, he's very sincere and earnest about everything, but hey, I've been there myself; we do care about the things that we... care about. And Edmund cares about his family and their story; a story that's essentially one of the legacy of inheritance, the responsibilities of family and the potency of the inanimate object; how we can invest them with energies beyond their earthly form and carry them forward with us as emblems and signifiers of who we are, and hope to become.

The exquisitly crafted netsuke are central to this tale of possession and loss. My main criticism of the book when I read it was that there weren't enough pictures of these little knick knacks; I wanted to understand their appeal. This is remedied now as there is an Illustrated version out on Thursday 17th November; the day after my birthday.
I know what I'll be doing with that book token now...
Have a look at Edmund (who's just taken his anorak off) with his netsuke below and then listen to him reading from the book.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mighbrow: Grace Note

Music (to quote the great John Miles) has always been my first love.
And, while there's a comfort to be taken from well loved songs, you cannot beat the moment when you first hear something you know will become a personal, future classic. 
I've thrown so much money at Amazon in search of such moments. 
The porkers far outweigh the pearls. 
Maybe I should learn how to 'eBay'. 
Is there still such a thing as a 'Car Boot Sale'?

Grace Note

Sometimes the space between notes
Can leave you teetering
On the edge of something holy

I never arrive where I hope to be led
But, on occasion, a half heard promise
Is repeated and I recognise a gift

The shock of the new is only bettered
When you get exactly what you were hoping for
What you needed to happen

So, I sit here on the edge of something sacred
The embellishment of desire
Scared to breathe should I miss
The whispered promise
Of a grace note

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Toronto Tim Says: Paul Buchanan: Saturday Night/Happiness/Wish Me Well/New York Man/Garden of Love

My good (email) mate Tim Patrick (pictured here with his lovely Myrna) wrote from 'friggin freezing Toronto'. This was his response to one of the PB posts and I've tried to source everything he raved about.The only thing that I couldn't find was 'O Lolita'. Heads up anyone? This is also the first in a series 'Toronto Tim Says' that he doesn't yet know he's committed to. He may well resist but I think not; Tim is a generous soul with excellent taste and I'll throw these pages open to him once every four weeks or so for a timely trawl through his cultural month. He's put me on to much good stuff; I'm currently reading 'Carver's Country' a fabulous pictorial biog of Raymond Carver that landed in my post box (along with a few of his beloved and well chosen CDs) direct from Toronto Tim.
The internet can be a consumptive pain put it can also bring some good folk into your life...

"There really is a lot of great Blue Nile stuff on YouTube... I can't believe these guys suffered from stage-fright early on. There are 2 stunning in-concert HD videos posted by 'sayireland'... "Saturday Night" and "Happiness" (my favorite BN songs) that give me the chills. This is SOUL music!

Also, I'm not a big fan of Aqualung, but there is an gorgeous, haunting piece that Paul Buchanan sings on called "Garden Of Love" that blows me away. Strange and beautiful collaboration!

As well, there are 3 lovely songs from the hard to find "Happiness"(single) posted... "Wish Me Well", "O Lolita", and "New York Man" which I wish they had included on "Peace At Last". 

Tim (in frigging freezing Toronto)"