I saw PJ Harvey in 2004, flew to Sydney – went with a couple of my best mates, it was incredible. Shortly after she announced she was retiring from stage-work. Well, she came back after a few years away and then I didn’t go to Auckland and see her again, and sorta wished I had. Wasn’t making that mistake again when she was in Wellington in 2017. I bought a ticket because I didn’t want to miss it and also, by then, I was done with getting freebies from most publicists and promoters. All damage was done. I was a laughing stock and not to be trusted and reviews were only allocated to people that wrote nice things always. Read More
Bob Dylan and The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Prince,
James Brown and Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder,
Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Neil
Young, Miles and Coltrane, Ennio Morricone,
Brian Eno, Charlie Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Suzanne
Vega, The Beach Boys, Carpenters, Beethoven and
Mozart, Jeff Beck, Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, and
of course Aretha Franklin. Sonic Youth and Led Zep,
Little Feat and The Band. Elvis. Little Richard. Jerry
Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Yoko Ono, Pink Floyd and
some Tangerine Dream, some Kraftwerk, Keith Jarrett,
Nick Drake, Tears For Fears, Cyndi Lauper and more.
Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Grace Jones, Bob Marley,
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Abbey
Lincoln, The Roots, Midnight Oil, Split Enz and Schnell
Fenster, Swingers, Specials, Elvis Costello, B.B. King.
Nina Simone, Tom Petty, Leonard Cohen, Marvin Gaye,
James Taylor and Carole King, Karen Dalton and Bryan
Ferry, John Fahey and Lucinda Williams. Van Halen.
Emmylou Harris. Mark Knopfler. Phil Collins. Oh, and
Genesis too. Frank Zappa, Ween, TISM, Daniel Johnston,
The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy
Waters, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Michael
Nyman, Donny Hathaway, and, yeah, there are some more…
My favourite underrated drummer ever – having to name just one – would be Stevie Wonder. I say this because a lot of people probably still don’t know that Stevie Wonder played the drums on a lot of his great recordings. And would always get up and jam live.
I went to a drum-clinic something like 20 years ago (proof of Darwinism right there in one salivating, sweaty room). The head ape for this particular showcase was Greg Bissonette. I had enjoyed his playing on some Joe Satriani material and knew he had a strong jazz and pop pedigree. He played an amazing Beatles medley – he was so passionate about Ringo being so innovative and underrated. (He’s now Ringo’s drummer in The All-Starr Band, such a dream come true given a young Bissonette saw The Beatles in Candlestick Park on that final 1966 tour).
He then went on to tell a great story about doing a recording session with Stevie Wonder. Greg was fresh out of Berkeley and keen to impress. He was laying down a groove. Read More »
Songs For Drella is a masterpiece. It seems even more poignant now – no chance of another collaboration between Lou Reed and John Cale. And it’s an uncomfortable listen in places – tense and moody –and so stripped back. That’s why it works. Reed must have been on a roll, because he had just made New York and then Drella, then followed that a couple of years later with Magic And Loss – probably my all-time favourite album by him – one of my favourites by anyone, even though it’s depressing. Maybe because of that fact… Read More »
Brian Wilson in his sandbox, making art. The grit between his toes calms the
flitters in his heart, at least momentarily. Tearily, he’ll circle Gershwin, wash
through Mozart, change lanes to get ahead of McCartney. Smartly, he goes
wherever his mind takes him. Sadly, that’s far too many places. But we get
round, round, get around, we get around and stamp our passport as we flyover
and stop in on his various sounds. We are the lucky ones in his life.
Those little symphonies, perfect slices of magic. We watch them and hear them –
they appear then disappear before our eyes and ears. We cannot comprehend
the full beauty and magic genius that pushed them into place. The sadness
and baggage that allowed that to happen. Surf’s up, uh-huh. Corks on the ocean.
The wind chimes of his mind. The great sadness that headlines far better as
madness. Perfect melodies, wizardry behind the harmonies, and the deeply
mournful soul-stirring heartbreak that triggered it all. Love. And Mercy.
He ran in search of both, he wrote in search of either. His music lives to celebrate
what he has barely been able to enjoy himself. In his room. That magic world.
no more horsin’ around
racetrack dreams are
for Outsiders only –
no good once you’re
on the inside track. So good
to be on the right tracks for
once. Silver is fine when there
are pockets to line. So
Ponyboy don’t mind at all.
About once a month or so I have a long chat on RNZ about a particular musical artist or genre or a theme – for their regular Tuesday music features. This week I chose to talk about the music (and some of the trauma that informs it) of Marvin Gaye. Marvin was a house-drummer and songwriter for Motown ahead of being a solo star. He was a supper-club Sinatra-styled crooner for the best part of a decade before really breaking big. He was a duet-partner to Tammi Terrell, Mary Wells, Diana Ross and others. And then he reinvented himself as a seduction-balladeer and these sermons about sex and spirituality became massive across the 1970s. And Marvin became miserable. Read More »
Over the weekend we finished the final episodes of season two of The Morning Show. I liked this show a lot. It’s a smart soap-opera, a compelling and very straight-faced satire.
The Morning Show debuted in 2019 as a flagship for then-new streaming platform, Apple TV+ and its stacked cast – Steve Carrell, Jennifer Aniston, Reece Witherspoon – was certainly a big draw. The show was Apple’s big statement that they’d be doing original content. And they’d be taking their time, bringing in big names. No way were they going to botch it the way YouTube Premium did when it soft-launched original content. (Okay, it gave us Cobra Kai, but that was it). Read More »
I talked to Alan White. You may or may not know
already that he is the drummer for a band called Yes.
He also did a bunch of sessions back in the day,
including playing with Joe Cocker, George Harrison
and John Lennon. That’s him playing drums on the
song Imagine. Can you imagine? I got to ask him
about that. He said that sometimes he would stop now
to think about it. You hear that song everywhere.
At the time it wasn’t much more than a job. But now
he thinks about it. How his life would have been
different without that. So very different.
John Lennon called him up, told him he liked his
drumming – had seen him play in a show. Asked him
to join his new band.
Alan White puts down the phone. Thinking it a prank.
Is well pleased when Lennon rings back. More so when
he finds out it’s the truth.
Just a job. Ringing up the musician and letting them tell
a part of their story they’ve told so often. But you’re there
hanging on every word – especially when it’s a good yarn
like that. Just a job. And the world’s worst paid one too.
But the benefits have sometimes been huge. When I casually
mentioned to a new friend last year that I’d actually
interviewed three of the members of the band Yes he nearly
spat his drink out. That thing you do will always mean
something more in the end. Whether you were the person
playing drums for John Lennon on one of the world’s
best-known songs. Or the guy in line to talk to him about it.
Someone told me what my review would be like. Gavin Rutherford. He said, from the stage, “I know your review is going to be like, ‘Oscar!! You’re gonna say I’m too old for this but I still liked it”’. (He is the narrator/ Lyall’s mum and I know I said ”he” but he dresses up as a female every time).
Some days I reckon Tom Scharpling is one of the funniest people alive. Certainly, Tom Scharpling is one of the great underground wizards of radio, and podcasting. I don’t know how I first heard about him – or when I first started tuning in properly, but he has backstory and projects for days.
And as I was getting my head around all of his great radio satire – his towering The Best Show with Tom Scharpling has been going for 20 years and about a thousand episodes – I found out he was a TV writer (Monk), occasional actor, big time voice actor (Stephen Universe, Adventure Time), music video director (Aimee Mann, The New Pornographers) and general funny-man, comedian, writer. With a stack of other great podcasts. Read More »