I’ve got no wish to add to the hundreds of thousands of words written about the EU referendum. We’ve heard more than enough about the self-serving politicians who got us into this mess. I just thought I’d let the music do the talking and produce an entirely European-based show for Little Englanders everywhere. Hopefully Brexit voters can listen to it on repeat while stuck in a six-hour traffic jam on the M20 outside Dover. For enlightened Seeks Music listeners the world over: please don’t think we’ve all got St George’s flags attached to the fishing rods of our garden gnomes. Fantastic record labels like Rune Grammofon, Clean Feed and Sonic Pieces (from Oslo, Lisbon and Berlin respectively) will forever be a feature of this show. I love egg and chips, the tea and the rain, a good curry, the seaside and fourth division football grounds as much as I love Tubby Hayes, the Tindersticks, Disco Inferno and Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou . . . I just hate small-mindedness and right-wing zealots. One Love, Third Light Home, east London.
October sleevenotes: I first heard ‘Blue Monday’ on a waltzer at Goose Fair in Nottingham, blaring out of the speakers. It blew my head off; it sounded fantastic. That would have been in October 1983; I’d’ve just started sixth-form college. I can’t feel quite so ecstatic about the new New Order lp, but it’s certainly very listenable, and, I dunno, but watching their 6 Music session from Maida Vale on late-night TV the other night there seemed something very dignified, almost humble, about their comeback ‒ something in the way they carried themselves. Peter Hook would possibly beg to differ; but I love the 1983-sounding guitar line in the track, ‘Nothing But A Fool’, included here. The past weighs a bit heavy on this show: I’ve pulled out a few reissued classics from twenty years ago ‒ Oval’s Systemisch; David Kaufmann and Eric Caboor’s Songs from Suicide Bridge (not that I knew that lp back then) ‒ and from forty years back some new/old Lee Perry and Upsetters’ tracks. Light in the Attic, Paradise of Bachelors, Pressure Sounds, Hot Milk, Fire records . . . old news to some of you, I’m sure, but these days I find myself eagerly checking out the new release schedules of these labels and (many) more. There’s a nice mix of old stuff, and new. I never really understand why more people don’t seem to follow labels rather than bands or solo acts. As the type across the bottom of the sleeve of my battered 12” of A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Finley’s Rainbow’ says, ‘Remember, you’ll never know where it’s at until you learn where it’s from.’ True dat, even if they did spell ‘until’ wrong ‒ and there’s no credit to the original (Bob Marley’s ?)‘Sun is Shining’. The ‘previously unreleased dubplate mix’ from the Mr Perry, I Presume, the new Lee Perry lp on Pressure Sounds, is a bit spooky, but a beauty. All this provides a good excuse to dig out a drum & bass gem from back in the day; and this video made me laugh. (Especially the comment in the comments along the lines of, ‘This dancing, what is that?’)
We went to Goose Fair this year. The waltzer had a brake pedal and a taut wire, allowing you to really work up some stomach-churning revolutions. The cakewalk was bonkers; my daughter Edie won the Kentucky Derby; there was mushy peas and mint sauce (heaven) and beautiful autumn sunshine. There was just one person missing. RIP, Dad. I hope they’re playing Lonnie Donegan, Acker Bilk and Louis Armstrong up there.
A Wednesday lunchtime at Ronnie Scott’s.
The sun shining down on to dancefloor in the upstairs bar; a nice-looking drum kit tucked away at the back; an ice-cold beer, with some old friends, just after midday. Brilliant. It doesn’t get much better — and in conversation with Richard Williams was the critic Brian Case, ex-of the NME, Melody Maker and Time Out, and now happily retired, enjoying just listening to music or reading a book without having to strain for an adjective or a rush of adverbs.
Because of my line of work I’ve sat through a fair few literary readings or ‘in conversations’ in my time, mind wandering, trying to remember if I’d turned the oven off before I left, worrying about something ultimately irrelevant at work. But this was different: hugely engaging tales of a life in books and music, of picking Dexter Gordon up from Heathrow Airport in a battered old green van in the rain in 1971; of loving the simple speed of Johnny Griffin; of dealing with the razor-sharp wit of Ronnie (Scott) himself (and the bar’s staff during the venue’s heyday); of the ecstatic life-affirming nature of jazz, but also of ‘down’ writers like David Goodis.
The occasion was to mark the publication of On the Snap by Caught by the River books. The book itself is full of such yarns, the encounters around the pieces of journalism, rather than the journalism itself — hiding behind a breakfast counter of a Danish hotel to check out whether Tom Waits was a fake or not; celebrating the genius of Ian Dury’s rhyming slang; talking about great American writers with Norman Mailer. And on and on. It’s a slim volume, but with a huge canvas.
There are only a couple of jazz tracks in this show, but what beauties: Don Cherry live in Nantes in 1964 and, right at the end, Gerry Mulligan at the Newport Jazz festival in 1958. Serendipitously, it turns out Gerry Mulligan was one of the first jazzers caught live by a young, teenage Brian Case in Deptford.
It’s not really a proper holiday unless I drag everyone miles out of town to an obscure or sought-after record shop. Before the kids were born – well, Ange was heavily pregnant – we managed to alight at the wrong stop on Michigan Avenue, Chicago. ‘It’s only a few blocks further up,’ I cheerily proclaimed. Two hours and several miles on, in the blazing noon-day heat, we arrived at the Quaker Goes Deaf only to find the shop closed because of a flood. ‘But we’ve come all the way from London,’ I whimpered, hopelessly, to the distracted owner. ‘Sorry, man. Next time.’ (There wasn’t a next time – it closed in 2005.)
There was the fantastic electronic/avant-garde retailer in the crumbling old town of Lisbon, which had Wire magazines stapled to the ceiling and in which I spent a fortune – largely on Portuguese improv and electronica and ambient records from Cologne. That was in 1997, when you could still come across goats wandering about the streets; seven years later I think we must have plied our daughter with three or four Heroic World ice-cream tubs to shut her up while I spent an afternoon scouring every street corner, climbing up cobbled passageways and down back alleys. No goats, and no record shop. (It’s not here either, though I wonder if it wasn’t the first incarnation of this, Preterito Perfeito?)Then there was the journey through the outer suburbs of Budapest in search of the city’s finest jazz emporium. Engineering works on the tram perhaps added a couple of hours to that trip. Eventually we made it, on a sweltering Friday afternoon, and haltingly translated the sign in the window: ‘Closed for August’. In more recent times I wish I’d taken greater advantage of the jazz retailers of Helsinki; and I’m still paying off a splurge in New York from a couple of years ago (once the guy St Mark’s bookshop had pointed me in the correct direction for the relocated Kim’s Underground).
It all started in Berlin, though, back in 1996, in what I’m pretty sure was the original Hard Wax shop. Ange translated the sign above the turntables for me: ‘only 20 records at one time, please’. That was unbelievable – at that time, if you wanted to hear something before purchasing it in London, you had to tough it out with the surly staff, then stand there while the whole shop listened to and passed judgement on what you were thinking of buying . . .
At the new Hard Wax this summer I found a handful of reggae 7”s I’d had in my notebook for a while, there still seemed to be about 15 turntables for use, and the shop was busy, even on a Monday afternoon. Life doesn’t get much better. It also added a spring in my step to see that Mr Free and Mrs Dead is still going strong in Nollendorfplatz. Two decades ago I picked up a cd of early Smog recordings there; this time I went for a Bonnie Prince Billy 7”, which didn’t quite make the cut this month – next show, maybe . . . (The photo this month is taken from a flea market in East Berlin. Sadly I didn’t quite have the wherewithal, resources or strength to tackle Easy Jet with this beauty.)
Sleevenotes for March show: It seems every time we cycle up the path by the River Lea a new block of flats has been erected. Just the other chilly Saturday afternoon, myself and Thurston, my son, hoped to get a cup of tea in a café along by where the boat people live, near Walthamstow Marshes. Unfortunately it was closed ‘having run out of food’ and so we sat on a bench and watched the river go by. A rare bit of winter sunshine, a couple of swans and a duck, and a young woman sat on the tow-path, sketching the barges moored on the far bank. Within minutes a hipster rolled up on his racing bike and started talking loudly into a mobile phone about ‘how corporate’ the Green Man festival had become. He stood, just blocking the final rays of sun, putting the pencil sketcher into the shade and shattering a brief moment of London tranquillity . . . I guess I’m no better, contributing more noise here, but I hope at least the next hour or so of music proves edifying in some of kind of small way (we all know corporate music festivals suck), and the music of Harold Budd, in particular, is worthy of re-investigation. There’s currently a huge amount of his stuff being reissued, including a 2cd retrospective, The Wind in Lonely Fences, and a lovely double-vinyl solo piano set, Perhaps. He comes across with much dignity in this Guardian interview; I can even imagine him puttering about on a canal boat on the River Lea Navigation . . .