Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Strange Story of Me and Spike 'I Prefer Jazz' Heatley

Was it Oscar Wilde who once said; "There is only one thing in life worse than having the internet, and that is not having the internet"? Perhaps I'm getting him mixed up with someone else. But, were it not for the internet the following little tale would never have happened and, naturally, you would not be reading it now.

On April 8th last year, my wife Debbie and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a glass or two of wine in our favourite Hastings wine bar before heading to a nearby pub to see our friend Wendy DJ to a packed crowd of boozy dancers. Wendy introduced us to her friend Merrill, visiting Hastings for the weekend, who said she would soon be moving to the town. After congratulating her on her choice of location we chatted and, as it is the 21st century, became Facebook pals the next day.

The following Saturday I took the trouble to queue for the first time for Record Store Day. The wonderful Soho Scene series of jazz albums was releasing its 1964 edition and I didn't want to miss out on a copy. Disc secured, I headed home to listen to it. It was up to the same high standard of the others in the series, but one track in particular grabbed me. When I say grabbed me, I meant it entranced me; 'Times Two and a Half' by Bill Le Sage & the New Directions in Jazz Unit.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Happy 80th Birthday, Dudley Moore

Dudley Moore would have been 80 today (19th April). Best known to the masses for his partnership with Peter Cook and his brief stint as a Hollywood A-lister, the comedian, actor, writer and ‘ladies’ man’, his greatest talent was as a pianist and composer. Shamefully overlooked and under-commissioned, I know I'm not the only person to regard him as the finest musician at work in Swingin’ London.

Classically trained via an Oxford scholarship, he entertained the somebodies at Cook’s Establishment Club and the nation via his customary tune or two on ‘Not Only but Also…’ with his jazz trio. If only he’d been given more film work, for his soundtracks for Bedazzled, 30 is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia and Staircase are the works of a maestro and, heck, it’s overused so as to become almost meaningless, but he really was something of a genius.

Here’s my Dudley Moore Top 10

1. Rupert’s Romp –From the 30 is a Dangerous Age film, this piece is not on the soundtrack album, and to the best of my knowledge has never been released in any format. I am obsessed with everything about this 166 second clip – the colour, lighting, camerawork, the interplay between drummer Chris Karan & Dud, Karan’s playing, the customer giving Dud the ‘ok’ seal of approval, the maitre d’ doing a little soft-shoe-shuffle causing the girls to giggle, Dud at his most handsome with a sunshine smile, and of course, his phenomenal playing in the manner of his hero Erroll Garner.

2. Bedazzled –Judging by Dud’s threads and barnet this dates from 2 or 3 years after the film. I can’t think that Barry, Mancini or Bernstein have ever come up with anything better for a film score. The soundtrack contains four arrangements on this theme – Main Title, The Millionaire, Lilian Lust & Cook’s piece de resistance (see No.3). 

3. Bedazzled by Drimble Wedge & the Vegetations –The first post-punk record? Lydon has acknowledged this as an influence on a Pistols’ song (he couldn’t recall which), but its sound is futuristic orchestral psychedelia with Cook’s monotone delivery leaving it sounding like little else until Broadcast came along.

  4. Waterloo –Not dissimilar to my cloth ears to Rupert’s Romp. This track appears on the 1971 Today album, though this clip features bassist Pete McGurk, who tragically committed suicide in June ’68. 

5. Amalgam – The outstanding track from 1969’s imaginatively-named Dudley Moore Trio album. I swear I’ve seen a tv studio clip of this but cannot find it. 

6. Song for Suzy – Got that heavy bass sound and early 70s optimism (where did that go?) not unlike the pop vibe of Blue Mink. Also from the Today album & introduced by Roger Whittaker. Dig!. 

7. The Detective –Truly showing his skill and versatility this is unlike anything else in Dud’s canon and is from the 30 soundtrack. A moody noir orchestration reminiscent of Elmer Bernstein’s great works; Staccato’s Theme and Walk on the Wild Side. Stunning. 

8.The Staircase – From his score for the long-forgotten film, which never got a soundtrack release, (can you hear me Jonny Trunk?) but rescued to close the Today album.Exquisite piece of bachelor pad bossa.  

9. Hello Sailor – Another from 30. This was renamed Morning Walk for the American soundtrack. I love the jaunty sunniness of this. Has a sound not unlike the work Bowie did with the likes of Arthur Greenslade at the time. Is that an ocarina? 

10. Waltz for Suzy or Sooz Blooz, GPO, Italy, Moontime, The Look of Love, Just in Time…How can I pick just one more? Lose yourself on Youtube or pick up a secondhand vinyl. Actually, I can. This disappeared from Youtube for a while, so enjoy it whilst you can. How about this for 24-carat A-List Saturday night entertainment even if Cass doesn't quite seem to 'get' Dud's sense of fun.  

Happy birthday, Dud.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A Tribute to the Great Gerald Wilson

For me, it all began about two or three years ago when a good friend with peerless taste, Jo Wallace, pasted a version of Light My Fire on her Facebook page. I'm a sucker for this song, loving Tony Hatch's, Erma Franklin's and Shirley Bassey's takes on it, as well as the original. This one though, was something else. This was so far up my street you'd need to pack a flask and sandwiches if you had any desire to reach it. The Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Gerald Wilson? Never heard of him? No, I hadn't either.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Have You Got Spiral Scratch, Buzzcocks?

This Friday in Manchester and Saturday in Brixton, 25th and 26th May 2012, Buzzcocks will play for the first time in 33 years with original vocalist Howard Devoto. I will be at the latter show. I am getting quite excited, almost as much as my fourteen year old self would have been.
This chapter from Taking Candy from a Dog will explain all.

It’s July 1979 and Lee writes to tell me some big news. Really big news. He’s read in the NME that Spiral Scratch is going to be re-released.
After a string of fantastic singles throughout 1978 the last couple haven’t been so hot, but the Buzzcocks are still my favourite band. I bought the current one, Harmony in my Head, in both the blue and red sleeve, even though it’s not a patch on Promises or Love You More.
I’ve got everything they’ve ever made, including Pulsebeat 12" on blue vinyl, everything except Spiral Scratch. Lee tells me that the Spiral Scratch EP is one of punk’s main foundation stones, the first true ‘independent’ record. That piece of plastic, recorded one December afternoon in 1976, has inspired a thousand other bands to make DIY records. That way they cut out the corporate middle man.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Jottings of a Traveller III (Sardinia Oct 2009)

They say that things always come in threes. Of course they don't, not always, but sometimes they do. Take this week for example. At the age of exactly 44-and-a-half (on Sunday) I experienced three 'firsts' as follows;

 I. My first visit to Italy. Sardinia, to be exact. Castelsardo, on its north coast to be more exact. Okay, so it's not the mainland, but say you'd never been to Britain, the Isles of Sheppey or Man would still count.