Sunday, 20 November 2011

Where'd you get that awesome bass?

One of my neighbors is a very gifted bass player named Steve Watts. He's got a lot of interesting anecdotes about people he's played with, but he doesn't blog (to my knowledge), so I'm going to take the liberty of recounting one of them here. Some time back, he was referred to do a gig with a female singer-songwriter he'd never heard of. (I would include her name here, but that would possibly ruin the punchline.)

So, she gets in touch a few days before the gig to arrange a rehearsal. She gives him her address, which is in Holland Park (an area associated with mega-stars of various descriptions), which he finds odd, given that he's never heard of her. Not many up-and-coming, but still obscure, artists live in that sort of hood. He asks about parking, because he'll probably have to drive, given the difficulties of carrying an upright bass on public transport. She tells him not to worry about bringing an upright, because she has one at home. This is also a bit of unexpected information.

On the appointed day, he turns up at an amazing home in Holland Park, meets the singer, and they head into the rehearsal studio. In the corner is a beautiful and obviously very expensive upright bass. He says, "Do you mind if I ask the story behind this bass?" She says, "It belongs to my husband," and then shouts up the stairs, "Harry, come say hello!" Footsteps are heard on wooden stairs, and then in walks the man himself...

Scenes from London life


Today's London weather report

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Guided to Love

When I wrote a post two years ago (!) on the amazing night in 2005 which I spent in the company of some Stax legends at the Barbican in London, I neglected one part of the story, because I couldn't work out how to make it relevant. But thanks to the power of YouTube, I now can. Between sets that night, Jim Spake and I ventured out the side doors from the dressing room, just to look at the room and the crowd, because backstage at the Barbican is basically hermetically sealed off from the stage, apart from a pair of doors at the back of the stage which, that night, were only for artists or technicians entering or leaving the stage. So, we'd been standing there at the right of the stage for a couple of minutes, when I noticed charging toward me, at great speed, a shock of red hair in a tie-dye t-shirt which I immediately recognised as one Vanessa Robertson from Memphis - someone I hadn't seen in at least 10 years. She embraced me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. I was almost speechless - keep in mind that this was before Facebook, back in the days when people just lost track of one another. I asked the obvious question, and she explained that she now lived in London, having met her husband (the lovely Gavin) on a Guided by Voices web community. I had dinner with them a few weeks back, and they are lovely people, and a lovely couple. See for yourself here, at around 7:09 to 7:13 where you can see them smiling and bouncing around in the background. And in "Smothered in Hugs" in the clip which follows, Bob Pollard can be heard shouting out "V" to Vanessa. 1,400 songs and at least one happy marriage - that's a great legacy, Bob! (FYI/FWIW, this very amusing and insightful interview was done only a week after the band played Memphis with The Grifters in 1994, a gig I remember seeing advertised at the time, but was unable to attend for some long-forgotten reason. Vanessa made it to that gig, and the rest is history, I guess.)

Jelly Donuts

I have regrettably ignored this blog for some time, which means that I have a backlog of anecdotes, superfluous insights, and other weirdness to clear. So, first, a childhood memory. I came across this oddity on the web some time ago, and captured it for my own enjoyment. It is the 1970s Memphis morning radio legend, Rick Dees, along with his largely self-generated Cast of Idiots on WHBQ in 1976, in an infamous segment featuring Jerry Lee Lewis and Dees' version of (the then still living) Elvis. As a religious daily listener, I remember hearing this live when it aired, so it holds fond memories for me, despite its cruelty. Following his death and subsequent near-canonization, it's hard to recall that during his physical decline, Elvis was the butt of widespread derision in Memphis, with numerous anecdotal tales circulating about The King's minions making monstrous to-go orders at local Memphis eateries (this is where the jelly donuts reference comes from), as well as some suspicious trips to the hospital for ailments like "spider bite." Here is Dees at the top of his art, laying it on with a trowel. A few months later, the joke would be over.