Category Archives: Music

Lay Down With The Devil (Blues for JA)

If you lie down with the Devil
How you know what’s coming next?
When you lay with that devil
You better know what coming next
Cos if he leave you sad ‘n hurtin’
Don’t be sendin’ me no text

If you let him introduce himself
I’m sure you’ll be impressed
He’ll tell you that his wealth and taste
Are nothing but the best
But his game is playing politics
So forget about the rest

He say the bed ain’t there for sleepin’
It ain’t there to take your ease
It there for him to know you
At any time he please

So the Devil won’t be changin’ much
He been round a long, long time
He’ll smile and talk of love and such
Of reason and of rhyme
But his game is gettin’ what he wants
The same thing every time

So when you layin’ in his bed
That ole Devil by your side
‘member what your best friend said
Before you take that ride
Don’t be sendin’ me no text
Bout that fool, the Devil’s bride

He say the bed ain’t there for sleepin’
It ain’t there to take your ease
It there for him to know you
At any time he please









Mean Mistreater – Blues For John

You’re a mean mistreater Johnny
Don’t got no place to live
You’re a wife beater Johnny
My wife beat so bad
She ain’t got no more to give

You’re a blot on the landscape
See your city from the Moon
A political date rape
My people beat so bad
They come looking for you soon

You wear a black hat John boy
You the villain of the piece
You use a black jack John boy
You need my life so bad
I’d like to give you peace

You just lying where you stand man
The truth ain’t got no use
Count the fingers on my hand man
When you shake it so bad
My only change is loose

You’re a mean mistreater Johnny
Nothing deader than your eyes
But you’re on the meter Johnny
It’s really not so bad
If nothing lives then nothing dies





The Sound of Music – 3 Short Stories

I can outrun them. They’ll never catch me.

After all, I’m driving the same car that Steve McQueen drives in ‘Bullitt’ – a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. In the same Highland Green colour.
So they’ll never catch me. What have they got than can do a quarter-mile in 13.8?

I’m wearing the dark blue roll neck jersey; the Lucky Strikes are on the passenger seat and the Colt Diamondback is in the glove compartment. The customised 8-track is blazing out its message to the countryside as we growl and hiss  along the highway.

Such a cool ride. The Mustang is a beast that I’ve tamed. Yeah! But, hey, where did the Dodge Charger come from? It’s alongside me. A black ’68. Two guys in it. Ramming the Mustang. Damn! Brakes. Brakes. No! No! Spinning. End-on-end. Roof crumpling. Steering wheel in my chest. Such searing pain. Blood. My blood. I see the sky. I’m outside of the car.

I cannot move. The 2 guys are standing over me. One looks like Lee Marvin, the other wears glasses. Looks like an accountant. They seem kind of concerned. They’re talking;

‘This ain’t a movie kid. The Charger does the quarter in 13.6. Faster than that Ford piece of shit.’
‘Tough as hell stereo though, Jerry. Still playing’
‘Yeah. And what is that shit? Should be Lalo Schifrin, huh?‘ He laughs dryly.
‘I know what it is, Jerry. It’s, uh, classical they call it. Tchaikovsky I think. Yeah. Tchaikovsky – that’s it.’
‘No shit? Kinda inappropriate wouldn’t ya say?

I saw his boot but I never felt it.

Restaurant Review by Piers Norman

‘The Groomsman’ Falls at the Final Hurdle

‘The Groomsman’ licensed restaurant. 27-29 Waverley Street, Phone 829 2337
Hosts; Ralph & Gwen Carstairs
Chef; Clementini Arbiso
Michelin Rating; 2 stars (“Table excellente, mérite un détour”)
Open for dinner; Thursday Saturday, Lunch 7 days.
Fully licensed
Starters      $10-20
Mains         $25-40
Puddings   $10-20

Food: *****

Service: ****

Ambience: *

Wine list: ****

Sound System; *

I could go on about the caramelised onions , the bouillabaisse and the 2009 Pauillac but it would be a complete waste of time. When we were here in 2013, I had occasion to remonstrate with owner, Ralph Carstairs, about the hopeless sound system in the restaurant. So much so that I was bound over to keep the peace.
When we visited The Groomsman last week, sadly, things had deteriorated further –  to the point where Escoffier himself could not have retrieved the situation.  Whatever joy my palate may have experienced was crushed by the bottom-end racket emanating from the High Street rack system that brings disgrace to Waverley Street. No matter what disc is in the player, it all sounds like Sly and Robbie Maximum Dub. I was somewhat tired and distraught that night and so I do hope that the Magistrates take that into account at the hearing next week.


Sitting in my study, sipping on a Chivas Regal and listening to Diana Krall on the Bang & Olufsen felt good. It had been a hard week and I needed to feel right, feel hip. The interview with Bono hadn’t gone as well as I expected and he had put up all sorts of barriers when I asked him why he kept looking at his watch. Still, I could touch it up a little and it would make a fine second instalment of the ‘Irish Rock Legends’ series that Rolling Stone had commissioned. It would have been the third instalment if someone could have bothered to tell me that John Cale was Welsh.
The first interview had been with Van Morrison. I say interview; it was a phone call lasting 5 minutes or so and 4 of those were listening to Van arguing with an official outside the Irish Supreme Court where he’s contesting some land ownership or a paternity suit or such like. Still, I can touch it up a little, pad it out a bit – it’ll be fine. Then all I’ll need to do is find an actual third Irish Rock Legend. I wonder if Sam Smith is Irish?



























In Praise of Disorder


I’m that variety of mug known as ‘a collector’. I’ve mostly collected music, in the form of records, tapes , CDs and sheet music. There are thousands of these artefacts all around the apartment. The collecting started in my teens and has continued unabated for some 50 years. My golden period was the 90s when Wellington Record Shops owned by such people as Colin Morris and Dennis O’Brien had a large photograph of me in their shop window bearing the legend, ‘If you see this man, please usher him in.’
I like to own what I hear and like. That is, rather than just call it up on the PC. Why? Firstly because I have a fabulous, and hugely expensive so it needs justifying, 2-channel stereo. Secondly because I’m compelled to. Not by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Oh no. But by the gene pool. My parents were collectors. Of anything and everything. Making my way from one side of their living room to the other was like a game of Twister, such was the care needed with placement of limbs, lest I disturb a ten bob resin ashtray adorned by a macaw or a 100 squid oil of a Kentish sunset by someone from the Royal Academy.
There was, of course, music growing up in South London; Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Stan Freberg, Mahler, Beethoven, Pete Seeger. And The Goons. It was all there. Everything.  Everything except Rock and Roll. That I had to get for myself and listen to by myself. The first record I bought with my own money was ‘Hit and Miss’ by The John Barry Seven – the theme song for TV’s Juke Box Jury. The latest arrivals, today, are by BRMC and Tangerine Dream. The beat goes on – as Sonny and Cher once sang, although I do love Patricia Barber’s take on that song. Where was I?
Oh yes. So. Where to put all this stuff. And how to order it? You can go onto websites that will tell you. And I do mean tell, They’re quite didactic about things like sub-genres, chronology, alpha and artist order. When I read the monomaniacal ravings of the nutters that proliferate these places, I can get a little puckish. I like to ask if John Fahey’s ‘Blind Joe Death’ should be considered for filing under American Traditional, Folk, Folk Blues, Guitar or just, you know, John Fahey. ‘Ah. But under J or F?’ I hear you ask. Such fun. And I haven’t even started on Portuguese Fado and whether or not it still counts as Fado if a man is singing.
Then there’s always Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity character, Rob Fleming, who has his music collection arranged to reflect his romantic liaisons. I could do that and have, like, about 120 sections – which would be great to explain to visitors. Then when the visitors leave, rearrange them back into the original 3 sections
So here’s how I do it. I have lots of wooden CD cases all around the place. Over the years, I’ve played at storing discs by genre/sub-genre/alpha or by amalgamating all the sub-genres into one homogenous lump. The trick is never to finish anything I’ve started. That way, there may be two or three partially organised cases where, say, a Muddy Waters disc may be located. The prospects of finding anything within 10 minutes or so are significantly diminished if I have utterly forgotten  exactly where the genres or amalgamations are in the apartment.  This lack of certainty is greatly compounded by not having bothered at all over the last three years to introduce any semblance of order to recent additions. New arrivals are left in piles on, or by, the stereo, on the bed in the spare room or in places that only The Dark One and his minions know about.
But this chaos is positive. Creating danger out of certainty meets a creative need. I am fatigued – bored by order and safety. The joy of finding something cherished but lost, far outweighs the smug, slight satisfaction of knowing where to find that same thing without let or hindrance. And the pleasure is doubled, maybe trebled, enhanced by relief, when the disc finally goes on the turntable or in the player. I am recreating the first time.
And so I spit on your filing system. It is prosaic. I thumb my nose at your indexing cards. They smack of grey ennui. I pour scorn on your efficiency. It has no soul. Leaving nothing to chance removes the element of surprise. Duplications are evidence of life.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
Friedrich Nietzsche


Meet, discuss, rehearse
Meet, discuss, rehearse
No margins
Keep it inside the box

Meet, discuss, rehearse
The sets
The line-up
The keys
The tempi

Meet, rehearse, discuss
The venue
The audience
The expectation
The performance

Meet, rehearse, discuss
The road trip
The gear
The timing
The outfits

Meet and rehearse
Do it all
So it will be all right on the night

Do it all again
Know the music
Listen to each other
Stay inside the box
So you can step outside on the night

Imagine yourself there
The venue
The audience
The expectation
The performance

Arrive in hope
Set up
Sound check
Set lists

Be afraid
Remember your first time
Feel that way now
The audience
The expectation

The performance
The intro
House lights

This is how it’s meant to be
It wasn’t
Not for them
And so
Not for me

Historic Town Hall and Court House, Martinborough, Wairarapa, North Island, New Zealand



The Wellington writer and critic, Simon Sweetman, recently asked his readers a couple of questions that inadvertently led to my recalling some scenes from the past. He asked if we’d ever seen a great busker. And he asked if we’d ever known anyone decent who went by the name of Travis.

In 1968, I was living in London and becoming hip. Not cool, you understand, but hip.  Mods had come and gone; Psychedelia, Hippiedom and Timothy Leary were the thing.  Except I could only embrace some of it. I dug the counter-culture stuff, some occasional weed and most of the West Coast Music (Specifically not The Beach Boys though, whose very name brings on horrific psychosomatic symptoms if spoken, written or seen. Imagine what it cost me to print it here) but the residual mod in me demanded some attention to sartorial sufficiency.

So here I am in a longish queue outside the Carlton Theatre in the Haymarket. I’m waiting to get in to see Lindsay Anderson’s If’. Grey leather shoes with patterned toe caps, by Raoul; sharply creased, black mohair trousers and a tailored, black leather jacket with a sewn-in half belt. My concessions to the zeitgeist are a button-down paisley shirt and a conservative afro. The Gauloises cigarettes are situated precisely halfway  between hip and cool.

And here’s Don Partridge, singing while we wait. Known as ‘The King of the Buskers’, he’s a familiar sight around the pubs, clubs and theatres of the West End and Soho. He sings some Dylan and his own ‘Rosie’ which he’s recorded and been on the tele with. It’s a pleasant, early summer evening and we’re pleased to have Don entertain us while we wait. The shrewdly chosen pretty young woman takes the hat round and I add some coins to the many notes. Don’s doing okay thanks.

The movie ‘If‘ is pure, anarchic counter-culture. It marked Malcolm McDowell’s  debut –  in the role of Mick Travis (Yes, a tenuous connection, I know. But sometimes any idea is a good idea) –  a role he was to reprise in two further films for Anderson; ‘O Lucky Man’ and ‘Britannia Hospital’. The structure and surreal nature of the film are much influenced by Jean Vigo’s  ‘Zéro de conduit‘ (1933) but the plot of a student revolution, led by Travis, in an English Public School is an expression of Anderson’s belief that the British cinema needed to put aside its fixation with class and be more representative of the broader community.
We discussed that in the pub later and I managed to upset a few friends with an observation that Anderson was perfectly placed to attack privilege in that way, having been educated at Cheltenham and Oxford.
What neither I nor my friends properly realised at that time though, was that I was about to resolve the vexed choice between cool and hip by moving into the more considered role of rugged left-wing intellectual. Already my frequent use of irony, a newly grown beard and the recent acquisition of a houndstooth flat cap  were pointing me toward a classless society and women called Cordelia and Vanessa.


Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits

If you search for saccharine
It isn’t hard to find
I have enough you’ll need a sieve
But if you look for ruefulness
You might as well be blind
I’ve always found it really hard to give

Irony is such an obtuse word
It’s easier to just be blue
Irony is never never heard
Mostly ‘cos I haven’t got a clue

I can try to gull someone
To feel I harmonise
If I pretend to suffer as I grieve
But I haven’t got an honest face
And cannot hide the lies
And in the end it’s just best that I leave

Irony is such an obtuse word
It’s easier to just be blue
Irony is never never heard
Mostly ‘cos I haven’t got a clue

I tried to find a lyric
Tried hard not to offend
All I got was platitudes until the bitter end
Nobody can comfort me
With royalties again
I know I know

There’s nothing deep inside of me
But I’ve never been concerned
There’ll still be nothin’ when I’m gone
I tried to fake sincerity
It wasn’t hard to learn
And so I put it in this song

Irony is such an obtuse word
It’s easier to just be blue
Irony is never never heard
Mostly ‘cos I haven’t got a clue








Your Time Is Up – Lament For The Blues

You are beloved
You were ordained
To conjure sunshine
On days it rained

You are remembered
You are revered
Your locks are greying
Just like your beard

Now your days are numbered
And your hand is slow
The axe that thundered
The frets that glowed
The voice that rumbled
The riffs that flowed
Your time is coming
Pay up what’s owed

You trod the stage
Played for the crowd
Contained your rage
Sang soft, not loud

Now no one listens
No one hears
And through the silence
The faintest cheers

And in the distance
A sweet sustain
Held by the Marshall
The old refrain

Now your days are numbered
And your hand is slow
The axe that thundered
The frets that glowed
The voice that rumbled
The riffs that flowed
Your time is coming
Pay up what’s owed



Art Full Of Soul – Music Review

The way a man walks, the way he talks, the timbre of his voice, the cadences of his speech, his little variations in phrasing a thought — all have so much to do with individuality. The same thing is true of a man’s playing in jazz… his tone, the way his sound moves, his feeling for time. That’s why jazz is consistently fascinating. You could ask six guys to play an identical solo, but when you heard the results, you’d hear six different solos.’
That’s Leonard Feather quoting alto sax player, Art Pepper, in his sleeve notes for ‘Smack Up’, Pepper’s 1960 album for Contemporary/OJC. I first heard the album about 20 years ago. I hadn’t consciously avoided West Coast jazz before then but had somehow gravitated toward the East Coast and Parker, Gillespie and Davis. So this album, and Pepper’s swing, his time, was something new.
Not long after recording the album, Pepper was imprisoned for 3 years for heroin possession. So it’s not too much of a stretch to see why the Harold Land composition was selected as the opening and title track. Pepper was an addict for long periods of his adult life but contemporary reportage agrees that the majority of his recording and gig dates were straight ahead examples of Pepper’s brilliant musicianship.  This album is no exception and is never far from my turntable.
The selections on the album are a little unusual in that they are all compositions by saxophonists as differing in style as Benny Carter and Ornette Coleman. There are no standards or show tunes. So the track listing ranges from bop to swing to the soulful 5/4 of Pepper’s own ‘Las Cuevas de Mario’.
Throughout, Pepper is decisive and urgent. The music swings and the bop has a cutting edge. When Pepper attacks the changes, you will listen. There’s something going on here. The rhythm section just cooks along and the trumpet and piano commentaries are wonderfully well judged. The quintet, led by Pepper, has a voice – and the voice has soul. The music they make will move you.

Personnel: Art Pepper -alto sax; Jack Sheldon -trumpet; Pete Jolly -piano; Jimmy Bond -bass; Frank Butler -drums.
Track Listing
1. Smack Up (Harold Land)
2. Las Cuevas de Mario (Art Pepper)
3. A Bit of Basie (Buddy Collette)
4. How Can You Lose (Benny Carter)
5. Maybe Next Year (Duane Tatro)
6. Tears Inside (Ornette Coleman)
7. Solid Citizens (Jack Montrose)
8. Solid Citizens (alternate take)




On A Mission From God – Music In Film (Part III)



Cabaret (Bob Fosse 1972) is a great film and is the vehicle for the defining role of Liza Minnelli’s career. Minnelli is Sally Bowles as she works the stage of the Kit Kat Klub in the Berlin of 1931. The Weimar Republic is shortly to give way to the rising wave of National Socialism but Sally is largely indifferent to all of that. Sally has given her heart to the Kit Kat Klub and her relationships with the audience, her fellow troupers and her lovers have the appearance of warmth, of intimacy – but are only theatrical. She is the film’s decadent heart.

Fosse’s direction of the actors and the action creates a supple ease to accommodate the now familiar juxtaposition of Nazi ‘purity’ and an amoral society. The extraordinary set pieces build to a performance of the title song at the finale which echoes the nihilism and desperation not only of Sally’s soul, but of nations about to experience the most profound tragedy of modern history.
‘Cabaret’ is that most difficult of things; a downbeat musical masterpiece.



9 Songs (Michael Winterbottom 2004) is a plain film. At the time of its release it was considered controversial due to its frequent bouts of unsimulated sex, including an actual male orgasm. It earned the twin signposts of mediocre critique – ‘notorious‘ and ‘pretentious’. It is neither.
The story follows the year-long relationship between a young Brit, Matt, and an American student, Lisa, in and around London. They share a liking for live music and go to gigs at the Brixton Academy and elsewhere where they see bands such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Franz Ferdinand.
I could describe Winterbottom’s direction of the sex scenes as being sensitive and I might make a case for them as being somehow metaphorical. But the truth is that, for me at least, such scenes are like a trip to the circus; once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I’d be more inclined to parley a sort of Benny Hill connection between these scenes and the director’s surname, complete with raised eyebrow and lecherous leer. That would, at least, alleviate a plainness matched only by the Norfolk Broads.




Taking Sides (István Szabó  2001) was always earmarked to be the concluding piece in this series. It is undoubtedly flawed – but it strives to encompass important aspects of the human condition;  moral obligation, both personal and national loyalty and the role of art, and artists. We are asked if the aesthetic should be above the political – so the title is as much an invitation as it is a statement of intent. It’s make your mind up time, folks.
The story, as best as I can tell, is a true one. Wilhelm Furtwangler, played by Stellan Skarsgard,  is the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as WWII begins. He elects to stay in Germany even though he is encouraged by friends to leave and even though other notable musicians, such as Otto Klemperer, have fled. Once the war is over, the Allies establish De-Nazification Tribunals to determine the extent to which prominent German citizens ‘collaborated’ with Hitler’s regime. Furtwangler’s interrogator is Major Steve Arnold, played by Harvey Keitel.
What follows is complex and we may place differing constructions on what we see and hear. Arnold is brutish and unsympathetic toward his prisoner, treating him and his rationalisations with scorn. An angry idiot torturing a genius because of his genius? Or a skilled investigator determined to unravel the dissembling of a closet Nazi? Furtwangler argues that his loyalty was to his music, his orchestra and his nation; that art is always above politics and that he never joined the Nazi Party. Arnold asks him, ‘Why, then , did you play at Hitler’s birthday party?‘ And so on.
There are several junctures in this story where you may feel that you have reached an understanding of the actions and motivations of Furtwangler and slip comfortably into the guise of moral arbiter and reach a decision. But István Szabó has second-guessed you if you have. He produces some newsreel footage at the conclusion of this film which will most likely confound you. Which was probably his purpose all along.

Author’s note  That concludes this series and I do hope that you’ve found something enjoyable, maybe something to take further. I will write about some music documentaries, live concert movies and soundtracks soon. I do appreciate feedback, whatever it is, so feel free to drop a coin in the hat marked Comments below.

Closing Trivia The movie ‘All Night Long’ (Basil Dearden 1962)  was an updated version of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ set in the 60s London Jazz scene. Patrick McGoohan is ambitious drummer, Johnnie Cousin, playing Iago to Paul Harris’ Othello, bandleader, Aurelius Rex.
Patrick McGoohan‘s character, Johnny Cousin,  uses the phrase “Be seeing you” when he says goodbye to the road manager, Berger, towards the end of the movie. This is a commonly heard phrase in The Prisoner (1967), The Prisoner (2009), and was also one of McGoohan’s catchphrases in Danger Man (1960) and Danger Man (1964) .