Third Light Home May 15 sleevenotes

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.

Third Light Home, May 2015 by Seeks Music on Mixcloud

Third Light Home, October 14

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.)

Third Light Home Sleevenotes: August 2013

I thought I’d be too jaded, having read more than one history of independent music before now, but Richard King’s How Soon Is Now is an entertaining read that rattles along well and is full of nice behind the scenes stories – be it Morrissey raising a placard during a version of ‘The Queen Is Dead’ bearing the request ‘Two Light Ales, Please’, or an account of Rob Gretton and Mike Pickering, pillars of Factory records, taking Quincy Jones out for lunch at Knutsford Services on the M6 (‘he loved it’). Hence this month’s show features a chunk of fine independent music (or ‘indie’) from back when the term meant something. Actually, after a decade of major labels appropriating all that had a spark and was good, small independent labels now feel as vital as they did between 1979 and 1986. I could have filled the show with tracks from the likes of Mississippi records, Kranky, Thrill Jockey, Erased Tapes and Temporary Residence, and many more of the plentiful heirs to the greats like Rough Trade, Creation and 4AD. People tend to look at me slightly quizzically when I say I often follow labels rather than bands . . . (OK, as well as bands), but it’s a mystery to me why more people don’t just latch on the good taste of the custodians mentioned above . . .

Ah, well. Other sleevenotes: the record I forgot to namecheck is Sam Amidon’s ‘I Wish, I Wish’, from his very listenable, lovely, folky album (on Nonesuch) Bright Sunny South, which appears midway through; and apologies for any buzzing,  background noise and general distortion. This whole show was put together in a
less-than-soundproofed loft on a sunny Sunday afternoon – the wind in the trees, and kids yelling in their back gardens, having a good time, I can cope with; several helicopters flying over, the endless drone of circular saws, hammering, and the muted thud of next door’s ‘landfill techo’, you can live without . . . It puts me in mind of the great Steven Jesse Bernstein’s ‘More Noise Please’

Third Light Home, new show, May 13

May’s sleevenotes. It’s thirteen years old now, but one of the great music books remains David Cavanagh’s My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize, The Creation Records Story; a vast, sprawling doorstop which, if memory serves, devotes as much ink to the Loft and the Jasmine Minks as it does to Oasis, who memorably don’t appear until 400 pages in. It’s pleasing then, to see Jesse Jarnow has adopted a similar approach with Big Day Coming, subtitled Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock. Jarnow is writing about a band rather than a label, of course, but there’s a pleasingly digressive limbering up that takes in pretty much the first half of the book, and features the roots of baseball in New Jersey, the original Elysian Fields; the story of Maxwell’s, Hoboken’s Roxy/Sausage Machine/100 Club rolled into one; and the nearby Maxwell House coffee plant which leant the bar/venue its name and used to pump coffee-roast fumes into the skies above Hoboken and the Hudson River every Monday morning; Ira Kaplan’s early days as music writer in Manhattan (Jonathan Richman at CBGB’s, etc); Georgia Hubley’s parents’ battles with the mainstream as avant-garde filmmakers in sixties and seventies New York; James McNew’s days as a car-park attendant in Charlottesville listening to Hardcore records; all-night college radio shows; and the birth and early days of Matador records. Great bands and legends wander in and out — Superchunk, Pavement, Alex Chilton, various Flying Nun bands, Kurt Wagner and Lester Bangs — and, really, I needed three hours to get it all in. So, sadly, the Kinks, Superchunk, Peter Buck, Charles Mingus, Run On, Eleventh Day Dream and Sun Ra all ended up on the cutting-room floor. Ah well, another month. I also somehow failed to get to Yo La Tengo’s new album Fade, a record that never fails to lift the mood (even after my son has proclaimed, ‘Oh, Jesus, not again.’); so click here for some nice animation

; and click here for terrific, hot-off-the-press new track from the forthcoming Eluvium album featuring Ira Kaplan.

Really sad to hear about Jason Molina. I saw Songs: Ohio play one Saturday lunchtime in the old Rough Trade shop in Neal’s Yard, Covent  Garden, with my better half and an old friend who left for a new life on the west coast of America. It must have been 1997; we were young, but Jason Molina looked like he’d just left high school. His lyrics, though, have always been those of an older, wiser and sadder man. We saw him again, a handful of times, including one terrific Magnolia Electric Company gig, where he employed a series of country & western hand gestures throughout, alongside an entertaining between-song patter of simple decency and humility that stuck long in the mind. That classic run of albums — The Magnolia Electric co.; What Comes After the Blues; Fading Trails – sound every bit as fantastic as they did the best part of a decade ago.

nb: apologies: Joshua Abrams’ track from his excellent album Represencing is called ‘Sungazer’ (and not ‘Sunglazer’); and I was not trying to rap over the Hiss Golden Messenger track — something must have just slipped in the audacity file!

Third Light Home new December show

Another year rolls by, and, late at night, sitting at home watching our erratically flashing Christmas-tree lights, I’m thinking: once again I’ve failed to get in everything I wanted to. As I’m sure I’ve noted before, the problem with not finding time to do a broadcast every month means the back-log of records to be played is so vast that the gaps between the shows can get longer just thinking about what to play; what to drop. So this month, in attempt to get as much in as possible, there is no featured book, just plenty of new stuff and plenty of new old stuff, and probably, at 14 minutes, the longest track I’ve ever featured — so please make a cup of tea and zone out to Laurie Spiegel, and think of New York in 1976, and the sun rising over the East River . . .

Traditionally at this time of year, I’m one of those lunatics who tries to impose some kind of meaning on their life by spreading out a 100 or so lps and cds over the front-room carpet in an attempt to produce my records of the year list. The kids roll their eyes, but I suppose it’s some kind of diary, and despite every year promising not to go there, I’m sure the fruits of my labour will be posted up here soon for anyone really struggling with 10 minutes to fill on a gloomy winter afternoon . . . In the mean time here’s another track from the great new Hannah Lou and Trevor Moss lp

Season’s greetings and all that x

Listen to the show here