Yoko Ono. She is nearly 90. She might not be with us for much longer. I don’t think we’ve really appreciated her as an artist in her own right, for her amazing talents – and in her role too as the love of John Lennon’s life. That’s important – when The Beatles broke up both John and Paul formed bands with their wives in on-stage roles. Paul had Linda. John had Yoko. The women in their lives, both strong, talented women, were mocked for having no musical ability, were blamed for the dissolution of the world’s greatest band, were never shown the right amount of respect…and they each understood that their fragile, temperamental-artist husbands needed a foil. They knew they were playing a proxy. Read More
When people meet someone famous,
they usually try to have a story – some way
of feeling connected. Maybe there is a tenuous
link, maybe your mum really did meet them
when she worked as a server in a restaurant just
as they were making it – or your brother drove
their car or your neighbour used to be their
neighbour (presumably before some very bad
investments) but the famous person has heard
all of this before. No matter how unique you
believe your story to be. They’ve heard it before
or – more crushing – they are just not listening.
When you meet someone famous, the best
thing to do is treat them like a person. It’s a
risky move, but you could make out that you
are equally famous – or possibly even more
famous. I don’t advise this, even though I can’t
speak to it from any personal experience.
Just be the very toned-down version of yourself.
Because that is what they will be doing. Like meets
like. (& meet likes meet). And you can both
get through it with a modicum of embarrassment,
and/or a modicum of success. That’s the best you can
hope for. It’s more than they will have ever dreamed.
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 got to talk about about Billy Preston. He’s been on my mind ever since I was about 9 years old and I first saw him in a documentary about the history of rock’n’roll. His own music is great and then he was almost a member of two of the world’s biggest bands – The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. He played sessions for Sam Cooke, Sly and The Family Stone and Barbra Streisand, among many others; was a key touring component for Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and Eric Clapton. The list of people he’s worked with is enormous. Read More »
Those 2000 things you wrote
don’t matter because of
fifteen things you said.
It’s not acceptable in 2021
to have digital breadcrumbs from
a prior feast un-swept.
The amateur cleaner will find them
and charge you later, take what
they can; their own shelves well hidden
When my son was born I got a call
from Jordan Luck. He phoned me –
because, like many, he’d seen the mention
of the new baby online. He had
my number because I’d interviewed him
just a few months before and he had
asked me if I was a dad. I’d told him
that fatherhood was on the way, arriving soon.
So at the end of that most magical day, the birth
of Oscar – a delivery where we’d waited much longer
than just the nine specified months to meet him,
and my phone had been ringing all day and then,
this call from a number I didn’t have programmed
in. The caller asked if Oscar Sweetman was there.
I managed some quickness even after my senses
had taken an all-day battering. I said, “he is, but
he can’t come to the phone right now”. I was staring
at the beautiful little bub in the plastic tub,
his mother wiped out – and beautiful too.
never more so. She raised a thin smile just to
hear me say our child’s name aloud and wondered
briefly who was on the other end of this call.
“Simon! Jordan Luck here mate” came the familiar
voice from so many great songs. And a small handful
of warm conversations. He laughed heartily at my joke
and then he told me he wouldn’t hold me up. He told
me that I probably already knew that today was
a special day, none better. He told me he knew that feeling.
Father to father – dad to dad. Two people who
didn’t know each other well but knew about
each other, knew the work, and now occupied the same
world once again. And in an entirely new way. I like
to think that most people realise that Jordan Luck
is brilliant. If the songs aren’t to taste you at least know
they were written to last. They’re often perfect pop songs
and when they’re not you can at least smell that the intent
was still there, always pure. Anyway, whenever anyone
tells me that they don’t like The Exponents or Jordan Luck
I tell them this story. So I felt the need, finally, to write
it down. It was a nice call to receive at the end of a punch-drunk
day of elation. Jordan Luck understanding, as always what’s
important and how to cut right to the heart of it. And yet, he tries
to tell you he has no idea why love does this to you. He knows.
He fucking knows. He just called to say he knows. He just
called to say hello. He just called because he cares.
Bad Real Estate Agent says this house
is one you absolutely can afford
Bad Christian fights in
the name of the lord
Bad Lieutenant is a good film
about bottoming out
Bad Blood is arguably
what gave you gout
Bad Poetry isn’t
actually a crime
Bad Rhymes happen
all the time
I’m usually on RNZ once a month to have a chat about some new albums. But now and then I present features on the show too.
So I was keen, straight away, to talk Ringo Starr. Now Ringo’s legacy stays entirely with the band. He was the drummer in The Beatles. And that’s where he did his great work. His drum-playing is exquisite. Tight-but-loose. Magically inventive.
But we started off talking about a couple of fine solo moments. Ringo started the 70s as a solo star(r) with a hiss and a roar. Probably quite easy to do when you were in the biggest band in the world.
The wheels fell off he found drink, drugs and movies. He found many distractions. And he all but gave up trying.
So this was about celebrating some of the best things Ringo Starr did behind the kit – with one or two solo vocal highlights too.
What luck to be allowed on the radio talking about Ringo Starr.
Here’s my chat with Jesse Mulligan on his Afternoons show.
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I was sad to hear of the passing of Michel Legrand. He lived a long life I guess – he was a month shy of his 87th birthday I believe. I thought, straight away on hearing the news of his amazing recording, Legrand Jazz. We bought that 1959 album on a whim – I say we – the family used to buy albums for the whole family; we had some shared taste. And we learned about jazz together. We bought this album by Michel Legrand because of everyone else involved on it – some of jazz music’s biggest names – Miles Davis was probably the single name that sold it. The whole family was obsessed with Miles and we bought up the albums and learned about him, collecting the dudes and weird things as well as the classics.
Michel Legrand – I’m not sure anyone else in my family researched him any further.
But I did.
Suddenly his name was popping up everywhere. A prolific composer, producer, arranger – creator of iconic film scores.
I loved that Legrand Jazz album. And I loved everything I heard by him.
Here was a guy connected to not only Miles Davis but Frank Sinatra; Edith Piaf, Ray Charles, Jean Cocteau and Orson Welles too. He had his own triumphs and milestones – geez, if he only wrote Windmills of your Mind and the Oscar-winning score for Yentl that would have been enough!
But there were countless awards and so many experiences and connections. Working with not only the biggest names in music but also in cinema. Actors, directors, producers…
And he was an arranger and writer and band-leader, small combos and big-band jazz too.
A class act.
A footnote, to some. A name others have just heard today or tomorrow. Or just yesterday…
But to me he was the guy that wrangled the likes of Miles and Coltrane, Bill Evans, Donald Byrd and Ben Webster too. He helped to make them sound lush and amazing.
His music touched so many lives. Maybe it touched yours without you even knowing it.
Legrand’s legacy is a shining monument.
R.I.P. Michel Legrand
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Racist dads are a bigger part of the problem then they will ever know (well, obviously). Racist mums too. Racism ain’t ever a good time – but racist jokes can sometimes still seem funny. This is one of the great paradoxes of the world. Well, not great in the sense that it’s any sort of achievement or accomplishment. More vexing, if anything. Many websites and some news organisations – and plenty of publishers of books – now employ sensitivity readers. People that check to make sure the right things are being said, the wrong things will not be triggered. This is a fucking nonsense, an affront, an embarrassment, on so many levels. And yet we’ve been hurtling towards it for centuries. We’ve arrived. And it’s not a cool thing to hear about. Unless you’ve been able to hook up a cushy gig, a job as a sensitivity reader. If you haven’t – it’s one more job you haven’t got. But a chance, finally, to bond with your racist dad.
Sad to hear, just now, of the passing of one of the all-time great behind-the-scenes players, perhaps the greatest arranger and producer to ever work in country music, Billy Sherrill. Best known for his work with Tammy Wynette and George Jones Sherrill had a hand in so many hit records – working also with the likes of Elvis Costello, Ray Charles, Bobby Vinton, Andy Williams, Johnny Cash and David Allan Coe (and that’s just a very short list) – and often he was the producer, arranger and co-writer.
So many huge highlights in a career that saw him work closely with Charlie Rich and the smooth, countrypolitan sound that dominated across the 1970s and 1980s, with roots in the 1960s productions, is Sherrill’s lasting legacy.
But if he had just had a hand in Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man and George Jones’ He Stopped Loving Her Today that would have been enough; two of the all-time greats from two of the all-time greats.
Billy Sherrill knew how to make a sound that sold heartbreak. Billy Sherrill had so many
huge hits to his name. He was a very important part of country music. You can’t imagine not having those signature songs in the cannon. Not now. They’re there forever. Thanks – in part, an important part too, to Billy.
R.I.P. Billy Sherrill
This coming Friday, September 19, I’ll be playing some records down at the San Fran for a late show directly following Jeremy Elwood’s Election Special comedy show. Since it’ s the eve of the election the theme will continue and it’ll be a set of my favourite New Zealand music.
Late last year I did the Great Kiwi BBQ soundtrack – I won’t be repeating that line-up, though one or two of those same songs will surely make an appearance.
Starting after 10pm and rolling through until the wee smalls it’s going to be Dance Exponents and Spines, DD Smash and Shihad, Lawrence Arabia and Phoenix Foundation, Prince Tui Teka and Tall Dwarfs, Chris Knox and The Chills, The Clean and The Bats, David Kilgour and The Mutton Birds. Anything – and everything – that’s good.
So come on down for a beer and an after-party if you’re going to see Neil Finn’s gig that night. Or stay on after the comedy show. Tell your friends and celebrate election eve with some of my favourite (and your favourite?) Kiwi tunes.