Monday, 29 September 2014

The Hat Club: Oct 18: David Bridie

Thanks to Boo Hewerdine for such a brilliant set on Saturday.

Our next presentation comes to you from Melbourne Australia.
I've lifted the following biog from David's website; a more personal dissection of this top bloke will follow later...

David Bridie is the quiet achiever of Australian music, seven time ARIA award winning songwriter and composer David Bridie has enjoyed a distinguished career as one of Australia’s most innovative musicians. With his repertoire as a recording artist, soundtrack composer, producer, lyricist, uniquely Australian songwriter and singer, as well as a specialist in the music of Melanesia, Bridie has certainly stamped his mark.
A founding member and songwriter of critically acclaimed musical groups Not Drowning Waving and My Friend The Chocolate Cake whose success both in Australia and across the world is well documented, Bridie has also released a number of albums under his own moniker with the 2002 “Act of Free Choice” being released in the UK, Canada and America as well as Australia. At a recent Chocolate Cake gig in Melbourne, at The Famous Spiegeltent, Bridie mused that in fact he had performed in The Spiegeltent in five different countries.
It is as a songwriter that Bridie has forged his reputation as one of Australia’s best with tracks such as This Year Is Better Than Last Year (DB), The Kiap Song (NDW), I’ve Got A Plan (MFTCC), The Koran, The Ghan and A Yarn (DB), and The Last Great Magician (MFTCC) – all confirming his individual style in painting a mural of the modern world, its geography, its political mores and its dwellers identities.

From mid-2000 Bridie released three solo albums; Act of Free ChoiceHotel Radio and Succumb. These albums see Bridie make a return to the experimental music that his earlier group Not Drowning Waving had been noted for, with Bridie’s voice and electric piano woven around a universe of found sounds, anything from Papua New Guinea conch shells to Morsecode intercepted on short wave radio, with bass and drums added over the top of lyrics that are purely and unmistakably Bridie, a ruthlessly honest musical mirror to Australia’s complex national character and wry personal insights to the state of being human.

Over the years Bridie has balanced his career as a live musician with the composition of soundtrack music, with credits for over 16 Feature films including Proof, Bran Nue Dae, The Man Who Sued God and Gone several of which received International release. His score for In a Savage Land landed Bridie the award for “Best Original Score” at the AFI Awards,“Best Original Soundtrack” by the Film Critics Circle of Australia, and “Best Soundtrack Album” at the 2000 ARIA Awards.
Credits for his 29 television/short films/documentaries soundtracks include Remote Area Nurse for
which he won an AFI Award, “Winner Best Independent Release” ARIA Award; The Whitlam Documentary, MABO; Life of an island Man, The Circuit and most recently, the feature documentary film Strange Birds in Paradise and 10 part ABC drama series The Straits. David has always explored his particular passion for Melanesian life, music and history.

Now regarded as the world’s foremost producer of Melanesian music artists, David has scored, curated and produced many films, concerts and albums in Australia, PNG and The US and has been instrumental in launching the musical careers of many of these artists including George Telek (PNG) who is now considered an elder statesman of Music in his home country and had his music released on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. Other producing credits include Archie Roach’s “Jamu Dreaming”, Christine Anu’s “Stylin Up’ and West Papuan string band Black Paradise’s “Spirit Of Mambesak” CDs, Richard Mogu (PNG). His most recent work with Pitjantjatjara man Frank Yamma and the Countryman CD has seen Yamma’s career take off with UK and Europe tours and festival bookings across Australia and the world including the London Olympic Festival and Womad UK in 2012.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Hat Club: Boo Hewerdine

I'm not sure if you know this but... Di and I run a music venue.
The Hat Club is hosted in the bar of our local squash club in Beaconsfield.
It's a homely little venue with a simple agenda: to promote quality music to our members and to support musicians.
It's a tough time to be a musician; music streaming generally means that recorded music has very little value these days. 50,000 plays on Spotify earns the songwriter £5.
Yup, you read that correctly.
Live performance has become a prime source of income for our ever more wandering minstrels; wondering where their next meal's coming from.
The Hat Club has a max of 65 so 'intimate' is the vibe.
Beaconsfield Squash Club offers its facility and bar staff free of charge.
Barry Cross designs and prints our posters; again, no charge.
Paul Austin is a club member who also runs a local music shop in the old town. We are grateful to him for providing a PA gratis and for being the poshest roady in town.
With all support offered freely by enthusiasts I'm proud to say that every penny taken on the door goes to the artist.
And tonight's artist is very special; worth every penny...

If you are free tonight, bewilderingly, we have a few tickets left but... please don't just turn up, I'd hate to turn you away. Email me at and I'll confirm you on the list.
£10 entry
Showtime @ 8.30pm
Future attractions are:
David Bridie: October 18
Peter Bruntnell: November 8
Rae Husbandes: December 13
See below Barry's wonderful posters of previous acts.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Tom Waits for No-One: 4: 'I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You': From The Early Years Vol 2

'Closing Time' (1973) was the debut; fairly conventional fare in retrospect. This song is beautifully rendered but I think that I might prefer the initial sketch... What do you reckon?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Happy Birthday Bruce: 65 today

How do you judge people?
On whether they are kind to animals or old folk?
On how they behave when they know that they are not being watched?
Compassionate, loyal etc?
Yup, all of the above...
I know that it's wrong but I always get a bit uncomfortable around folk who rant negatively about Bruce Springsteen.
Sure, his music might be a little bombastic for some - 'Born in the USA' is misunderstood but still a little overblown for me - but... the man has an integrity that is unimpeachable. He's consistent and focussed. Seems to be a true and honest friend too; one that doesn't always take the easy turn but will always hold your eye, not glance over your shoulder for something... better.
Anyway, I just wanted to mark his 65th birthday.
The first Springsteen I ever heard was on a tiny, tinny plastic radio in my dormitory in Ermysted's Grammar school back in 1975. 'Born to Run' was the song and it knocked me sideways; possibly the most potent musical epiphany of my life. Springsteen mythology; everyone spoke in hushed tones about the lost concert footage of the infamous Hammersmith Odeon gig of 1975. Bruce was pissed off with the world, the British press in particular, for over hyping his first UK appearance as the arrival of some kind of Messiah. 'The Future of Rock and Roll' flyers were everywhere and he ripped them down and stomped 'em good. You can read the history of that tantrum anywhere. However, when 'Born to Run' was remastered a few years back it was re-issued with recently discovered film of that concert and it turned out to be as scintillating as everyone dared to believe.
Do yourselves a favor; seek it out.
It's spellbinding.
Here's the first song.
The moment you glimpse Bruce skulking onto the stage wearing a tea cozy on his head, to the moment at the end of the song when the band take the stage and hug each in other in obvious relief is just joyful.
This one song is hands down my favorite live vocal performance of all time.
My favorite musical 'moment' is when the band kick on the next song, 10th Avenue Freeze Out.
Again, well worth searching out...
Chicken Skin...
Nice memories in this Guardian piece too...

Kudos: Colin Penter: Joe Henry on 'Songwriting'

"What is important, what has meaning, is the journey… [and] journeys are through history as well as through a landscape" 
Theo Angelopoulos

"The obsession's in the chasing, and not the apprehending"
Tom Waits

'Kudos': entitles my first mumblings in recognition of kindred spirits; folk who are treading a familiar path; in search of beauty, truth and the perfect chord.
The web is a winding road that never leads you to your expected destination. Whilst trawling for info on yesterday's 'Tom Waits for No-One' piece (regarding his song 'Diamond in Your Mind'), I came across a blogsite written by Colin Penter entitled 'Always Keep a Diamond in Your Mind.', an obvious reference to the Waits song; more of which later.
Penter describes his interests as "dispatches on everyday life, social and political realities, the cycles of history, the complexities of civil society, political poetry and song and the struggle of being a good citizen whilst resisting corporate hegemony (and having a laugh) from one of the most isolated cities in the world." 
I'm unsure which isolated city he calls home (Perth?) but Penter writes beautifully, chronicling the mundane and the mystic, often citing the poetry and wisdom of the good and the great; quotes as disparate as these two:

“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”
James Baldwin

"Enjoy every sandwich"
Warren Zevon

Those of you who pass through these pages will probably know that I'm a huge fan of the work of Joe Henry, whose 'Invisible Hour' I recently reviewed here.  It's currently top of my pile for 2014.
My eye was initially drawn to a piece that Penter posted about Joe Henry's thoughts on songwriting, particularly in reference to Solomon Burke for whom he produced the fine album 'Don't Give Up on Me' in 2002.
I hope that Colin doesn't mind (I'll remove it if he does) but I've lifted much of that piece for you to read below.

See Colin's excellent piece in situ here:

Penter writes:

Henry writes beautifully and movingly of Solomon Burke, but it is the insight he provides into the wonderous craft of creating and delivering a song that is most intriguing. Henry writes how Solomon Burke was able to interpret and deliver one of his songs in a way that enscapulated precisely what he intended as a songwriter, but in a way that was different to the lyrical content of the song. Of Solomon Burke's interpretation of his song Flesh and Blood Henry writes:

"As a lyric oriented songwriter, it is worth noting that the track taught me a lasting lesson about the power of vocal delivery to impart not just emphasis and texture but meaning."

Apparently Burke changed the lyrics of the song to be the exact opposite of what Henry (the songwriter) had written, but his delivery of the song was such that the emotional intent and experience conveyed by the singer was precisely what Henry had meant. Writing of Burke's performance Henry writes:

"He bore down on those four words again and again and by force squared them with my intention and made them mean exactly what I'd meant, and the exact opposite of what he'd literally sung....And I started in that day to think differently, in a veryconcious way how a lyric released to the air is different from the written word"

The game of language- the physical sounds of words, how they couple and disperse- is what inevitably leads me to meaning......... Songs are, indeed deliberate inventions that we are frequently wont to adopt as gospel; and I am timid to explain mine, probably because they leave me at a loss. I know they Mean, I just don't always know what they mean.

Joe Henry has also written an illuminating description of how the song 'Our Song' (from 2007's 'Civilians') was formed, crafted and delivered. It is intelligent and insightful writing about the songwriter's craft. Henry describes how the song started with a single line and then emerged more fully formed from a series of events, daily happenings and reflections on the larger social and political context. Henry writes that:

Songwriting for me has absolutely nothing to do with self expression and everything to do with discovery. I write to find out what I am writing about. I may, after the fact, discover that something personal and known to me has indeed been expressed but the desire to do such is not what propels me forward, nor would personal fact, inadvertently revealed ever be part of what might make a song successful in my estimation.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tom Waits for No-One: 3: Diamond in Your Mind: From 'Healing the Divide' (2007)

"She's like a wrecking ball that's no longer attached to the chain"

I know this song from the fine Joe Henry produced Solomon Burke album 'Don't Give Up on Me' (2002). It's not really a ballad, although strangely moving. 'Diamond in Your Mind' was written in 2000 by Waits and wife Breenan. I don't believe it was recorded by Waits until this live version, which is taken from Healing the Divide: A 'Concert for Peace and Reconciliation' given by Dalai Lama, Tom Waits, Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass, Foday Musa Suso and Anoushka S in 2007.
It popped up on Spotify yesterday and has been ear worming me ever since. Populated by the usual bawdy menagerie, it's as universal as it is singular; Wait's particular genius.
It's also funny as hell...

I shook the hand of the President and the Pope in Rome
I've been to parties where I've had to be flown
They said everything was sacred, nothing was profane
And money was something that you throw off the back of trains

Oh always keep a diamond in your mind
You gotta always keep a diamond in your mind
Wherever you may wander
Wherever you may roam
You gotta always keep a diamond in your mind

Steam of the gravy with little fried pearls
Floating like a necklace on a beautiful girl
Johan says thanks to the food and land
And oh so ever grateful for God's on my hands

Oh always keep a diamond in your mind
Always keep a diamond in your mind
Wherever you may wander
Wherever you may roam
You gotta always keep a diamond in your mind

She's got the milk of human kindness and the fat of the lamb
Scared like a baby, well she drives like a man
She lives outside of Natchez where she operates a crane
She's like a wrecking ball no longer connected to the chain

Oh Zerelda Samuel said she almost never prayed
Said she lost her right arm, blown off in a Pinkerton raid
Then they lashed her to a windmill with old 3-fingered Dave
Now she's 102 drinking mint juleps in the shade

Everybody, always keep a diamond in your mind
You gotta always keep a diamond in your mind
Wherever you may wander
Wherever you may roam
Your gotta always keep a diamond in your mind

Monday, 22 September 2014

Tom Waits for No-One: 2: Time: From 'Rain Dogs' (1985)

Wait's married screen writer Kathleen Brennan in 1980 and her theatrical influence became apparent in his writing, initially with 1983's 'Swordfishtrombones'. He followed that in 1985 with 'Rain Dogs'. It was originally going to be called ‘Beautiful Train Wrecks’ or ‘Evening Train Wrecks’. Wait's sense of mischief remained keen; a smirk beneath kind, squinting eyes. Always a compassionate chronicler of his stray dogs, his cantankerousness now seemed heightened; a Prospero, the playful puppeteer, detached enough to hack through a string or two just to see what happens. 'Rain Dogs' is certainly populated by victims, survivors; surely injured, grotesque and grateful, all desperate to tell their tales of survival; perhaps for the exchange of a story; a shared cigarette or the offer of some small change as the sun settles on their journeys.
Although the musicality of 'Time' itself is quite conventional it was around this time that Tom was trying to write less on the piano and involve more unconventional orchestrations; using disparate instruments such as the marimba, banjo, double bass and... bones:

"Your hands are like dogs, going to the same places they've been. You have to be careful when playing is no longer in the mind but in the fingers, going to happy places. You have to break them of their habits or you don't explore; you only play what is confident and pleasing. I'm learning to break those habits by playing instruments I know absolutely nothing about, like a bassoon or a water phone"

'Time' is the sound of fractured folk holding their breath, cast adrift, treading water; trying to stay afloat amidst the flotsam, a plethora of past imperfect lyricism, an overabundance of beauteous vignette that reeks of love, loss and longing. Oh, and the tune's not bad either... In this wonderfully doleful song Tom's eye settles on a particular transience; rain on a rusty metal roof, tapping out the passing moments of a bewildered rogue's gallery; yearning, displaced and lonely. There is a grit to the romance that renders their rain soaked streets authentic. And there's hope around the soggy edges in the yearning yelp: “It’s time, time, time that you loved/It’s time, time, time.”
I always get chicken skin during this evocative verse:

And they all pretend they're Orphans
And their memory's like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can't remember
Tell the things you can't forget that
History puts a saint in every dream
Well she said she'd stick around
Until the bandages came off
But these mamas boys just don't know when to quit
And Matilda asks the sailors are those dreams
Or are those prayers
So just close your eyes, son
And this won't hurt a bit

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Tom Waits for No-One: 1: Kentucky Avenue: From 'Blue Valentine' (1978)

Sappy title I know but...

Tom's best 'ballads'? 
An impossible question as each is like a cross eyed lover; you adore them for their perfect imperfections, best loved ever changing, depending on your own state of dishevelment or displacement...
There's the more obvious early balladeering of the Asylum Years but his output post 'Swordfishtrombones' has been similarly affecting; Waits will always tug your heartstrings by grabbing you very gently by the throat. The increasing dissonance in his music renders the occasional moments of baleful beauty twice as nice. It's like the clouds parting on a nightmare; you surrender to a dream of a song and love it all the more for it's ephemeral effect; sure that its fleeting beauty is a prelude to darkness descending again. That's the nature of the beast in Tom; he dresses himself (and addresses us) as a hobo, an outsider; a Peeping Tom if you like. You sense him sanguinely squinting at the world from the gutter; because that's surely where the interesting folk abide; the walking wounded sidelined by sorrow, bad judgements or just plain bad luck. Tom's always on the move though, that transience is what makes him such an engaging raconteur. He populates his world with such worldy wonders that we can't look away but wouldn't want to walk those streets.

I'm posting regularly, but in no particular order, some bleeding obvious gems, other rough diamonds that might have been lost amongst the rubble.

I love 'Kentucky Avenue' like no other... so much so that I'm posting the live and recorded versions.
I always get a little moist during the penultimate verse.
The strings swell and Tom pleads:

"Take the spokes from your wheelchair
And a magpies wings
And tie 'em to your shoulders and your feet!
I'll steal a hacksaw from my dad
And cut the braces off your legs
And we'll bury them tonight in the cornfield"

I'm continually dipping into a collection of interviews: 'Innocent When You Dream' is basically Tom on Tom; with the usual tall tales and u-turns that inform any conversation with this mischievous minstrel; he flits between cantankerous, charming and irascible; wily, witty and never dull.
I'd happily have him on my desert island but I'd not be lending him my matches...

"My best friend, when I was a kid, had polio. I didn't understand what polio was. I just knew it took him longer to get to the bus stop than me. I dunno. Sometimes I think kids know more than anybody. I rode a train once to Santa Barbara with this kid and it almost seemed like he lived a life somewhere before he was born and he brought what he knew with him into this world and so... It's what you don't know that's usually more interesting. Things you wonder about, things you have yet to make up your mind about. There's more to deal with than just your fundamental street wisdom. Dreams. Nightmares."

Feel free to chip in...

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Timely Perhaps...

Taken from 'Hopeland (Notes from Corsica)

Fish to Fry

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud. We sat outside La Chariot in Algajola and ordered pizza with anchovies, served with a piquant olive oil and vinegar combination that wasn’t for the meek. We had stopped for a quick lunch and then it was to be a beach day; we had books to finish. Protected from the sun by silver birches that sheltered the restaurant’s garden, we shared a carafe of rose and waited for the earth to turn. We loved the odd duality of this calm bustling haven; the patron Patrick was the double of Di’s brother Steve so, for her, it also had an illogical fraternal pull. On finishing our demi we began to wonder where our food was. The service here was usually great but, there was no service; everyone was crammed into the tiny bar watching television. I tried to catch an eye, but to no avail. Maybe it was a racing day; I knew that the old boys inside loved their horses, hacking and slapping their thighs as they wagered and lost centime after centime. I stumbled into the smoky darkness and peered at the throbbing silver glow. No horses, but what seemed like an American blockbuster; all sirens, explosions and an overactive NYPD. The hushed reverence with which this action was viewed confused me. “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” I asked the barman. “This” he announced, “is World War Three.” I lent towards the screen at the very moment that the second tower was hit. There was a collective throaty gasp as the shadow of a plane buried itself deep and indelibly into the consciousness of all who witnessed that devastating moment. The coverage was CNN but with an excitable French commentary that I couldn’t decipher. “An accident?” I asked the room. “Terrorists! New York is burning” a strangled voice replied. I held on to the bar, light headed with the gravity of the moment and caught myself, a stranger, in the long mirror above the bar. I wasn’t acting, this was momentous, America under attack on its own soil; things could never be the same again. I looked out of the bar into the absurd sunshine and beckoned Di in. Ahead of her waded a willowy man dressed in the traditional bleu de chien, a faded blue cotton fishing jacket, and bright red rubber boots, with a simple fishing rod over his shoulder and the handle of a green plastic bucket in his hand. What hair remained was oiled and middle parted. Atop a prominent elegant nose he wore round tortoise shell spectacles, beneath, his luxuriant moustache was the stuff of legend. Oblivious to the unfolding drama he made his way lugubriously to the bar and ordered a glass of Pastis, which he held for an age beneath that long nose before downing it in one. Wiping his moustache with the back of a hand, he took off his glasses and scanned the room, his bleary eyes eventually resting on mine. He nodded down at his bucket with a shrug. “Up since dawn, for one fish. Merde!” I looked into the slopping container. A lonely red mullet was doing laps, fishing for company, or a way out. Ordering another drink the man’s squinting gaze followed mine to the TV screen. The twin towers smoked and blazed. “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” he asked, indifferently, scratching his peeling pate. “This,” I replied “is World War Three. Terrorists!” He arched his eyebrows and scowled down at his catch. “Terrible, a disaster” I muttered. “Terrible yes, but not a disaster” he gently kicked his bucket, “for tonight there will be fish soup”.

Later, back in England I would see a TV documentary on 'The Falling Man', about the efforts to identify a poor soul captured on film that day, falling to his death from World Trade Centre. Since its publication the now iconic photograph, taken by Richard Drew, has been invested with many layers of meaning. Some thought that the image should be airbrushed from history, that to view it was voyeuristic. Others saw it as a symbol, a new flag for a now outward looking America. There seems to be a calm about the man's descent that defies the horrors surrounding him, he's caught in a brief moment of apparent grace. Of course, the shots before and after that frame tell the true tale of this prelude to extinction; he hurtles at 130mph, limbs akimbo, towards certain death. I was struck by the idea of this being the man's last choice. He could accept the fate thrust upon him by the terrorists, or he could choose to control his own destiny, albeit a limited choice, but still an empowering moment; not suicide, but choosing your own time of departure. Is there not a dignity in that, and should we not recognise that dignity? To look away would seem to deny the fact that he made a choice, should we not honour him by bearing witness? I wrestled with the subject. There was something in the way that people reacted to the photo that intrigued me. Eventually it came to me; we all wanted to see his face, his expression, to know how he felt, to see ourselves in his place. There but for the grace of God indeed, he is ‘all of us’! 

I later heard an interview with a man who had spoken to his wife on a cell phone just before she jumped. He spoke calmly about her making the ultimate choice, and the comfort taken from knowing that she was thinking of him and their children as she leapt and he was sure that for her it was a kind of homecoming. She was able to breathe freely and for one last moment be under a beautiful blue sky. He said something like "to be out of the smoke and into fresh air, she must have felt like she was flying", an endorsement of the human spirit too profound to ignore. The idea that, as this horror unravelled, I was under the same blue sky, looking into a green bucket, sharing a Corsican fisherman’s disappointment, remains a constant reminder to me of the vagaries and vulnerabilities of any life, the transience and resilience of the human condition and the profundity of the mundane. As strangers bequeath their chosen Heaven or Hell upon us all, no man truly controls his own destiny. Whilst individually we all live where compromise leads us, collectively we must learn to control our politicians and to own our religions. We empower them to provide protection and comfort, not perpetuate the terrors that seem to feed them. At a distance the world might tear itself apart, but meanwhile on this peculiar island, there were other fish to fry.