t's no great shock that a film-maker has alighted on the life story of Charles Bradley; his is a pretty dramatic saga. The one surprise is that the film-maker in question is a documentarian rather than a dramatist –Charles Bradley: Soul of America did the rounds of the film festivals last year – but perhaps the twist at the end of the story seems too unbelievable for fiction. When the crew first meet Bradley, he is a 62-year-old semi-literate handyman and part-time James Brown tribute act. He lives in the Brooklyn projects with a pet parrot and his apartment looks pretty grim, but it's nothing compared to his neighbour's, which has bullet holes in the door frame. While waiting for a musical break that never came, he endured homelessness, grinding poverty, a near-fatal illness and the murder of his brother. He is also the primary carer for his invalid mother, mired in the obligation and despair of that role: "I have no life." And yet, by the end of the film, he has a record deal and a debut album on the shelves after Gabe Roth, head of retro-soullabel Daptone, chanced upon Bradley's James Brown tribute act and came away convinced that he'd stumbled across the real deal: a vocalist made of the same stuff as the man he man he was imitating. TBC Here
From the sharp-suited Soho jazzmen of the 1950s to Bradley Wiggins, Mod is the British style that never seems to grow old. A uniquely British fusion of American, European and Caribbean music and fashion, Mod was the new look of cosmopolitan, affluent post-war Britain, designed to rebuke the prejudices of older Britons towards the Continent and the colonies, while remaining proud of the island on which those myriad influences were stitched together.
Originally calling themselves 'Modernists’ after their love of modern jazz, the cult’s young founders emerged in London’s Soho around 1959. To the tight-fitting, colourful Italian suits of Brioni worn by Miles Davis, Mods added the 'pork pie’ hat of Jamaican immigrants, the Crombie overcoat from Scotland and the button-down shirts of the American company Brooks Brothers (which recently dressed the cast of the television series Mad Men); a more casual look combined the Harrington jacket from the States, Clark’s desert boots and, over time, a range of European sportswear from Fred Perry to Sergio Tacchini. TBC Here.
Union Music, Lewes
Running a burlesque boutique in a Sussex market town wasn't enough of a challenge for Stevie Freeman. With musician husband Jamie, she'd always dreamed of running a folk and country record shop, with a tiny stage in the corner, just like bars in Nashville. But she knew that 2010, post-recession, wasn't the best time to do it.
"And then we saw this place," Freeman says. Union Music came to life in a quirky one-storey building near Lewes railway station, and the husband-and-wife team then got to work, making the shop furniture themselves in their garden, "from bits of wood to keep things really cheap". The shop quickly became a community hub. The Freemans host regular gigs, work with a local youth charity, Starfish Youth Music, to support new musicians, and even run their own record label.
It was important to Stevie that the shop be welcoming to women, too; their Facebook page, she says proudly, has more female than male visitors. "Running a record shop nowadays, you have to be welcoming. Make your shop look friendly and warm. That'll keep people coming in." Those who have come in include Mumford & Sons, who made a special pilgrimage there last year ("I'd popped out," Freeman sighs). The band loved Lewes so much they're holding a festival there in July.
It also helps that the town's council supports independent businesses, Freeman adds. "If the chains had taken over Lewes, it would be difficult, but we're very lucky here." Her enthusiasm tells its own story. "Our dream came true."
Prize stock: "I've just sold it – a 10" Hank Williams album that I accidentally bought in America, stuck in between two others." Its buyer? Local Lib Dem MP Norman Baker.
The cessation of hostilities, when it came, was almost poignant – well, for those who remembered the mid-90s feud between Blur and Oasis, which gave the era's two biggest British bands license to insult each other every week in the press. On Saturday, Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher buried the hatchet in the name of the Teenage Cancer Trust charity, whose annual week of concerts Gallagher is curating.
They appeared together, along with the Blur guitarist Graham Coxon and Paul Weller (on drums, improbably), on Blur's Tender, separated only by a couple of microphone stands. If that didn't definitively prove hell had frozen over, a hearty backslap at the end did.
Even if their Britpop rivalry was always a joke to all except Liam Gallagher, who believed it was real, there was a genuine "ahhh" factor to this pop rapprochement. Middle-aged now – it was Albarn's 45th birthday – and with Britpop a sepia memory, it was clear the two men had more common ground than differences. "Noel? Noel?" Albarn beckoned. Gallagher duly appeared from the wings and they set about Blur's most pensive song, two veterans strumming and harmonising as cameraphones flashed.
In a musical sense, the shared moment was the only meeting point of a night that showed what different paths the pair have followed. As the night's main support act (the chore of opening was handed to the Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys, who sang frazzle-brained folk songs as the audience chattered) Albarn and Coxon played just three other songs, each of which reminded us that while some people still bang guitars, they have long since moved on. Their set was introduced by Gallagher, who said cryptically: "Sit down, open your mind". One wondered what he made of what followed.
After an ambling cover of Kevin Ayers' May I, Albarn and Coxon were joined by Gallagher's old mate Weller, who was ecstatically screamed at, and the beat poet Michael Horovitz. The 77-year-old recited his Ballade of the Nocturnal Commune poem as Coxon honked a saxophone and the others played keyboards. Then there was a freeform composition written specially for tonight. Horovitz baaed like a sheep and spat words, only some of them decipherable: "War machine and bombs, teenage trust, old age trust, fruit juice!" TBC Here.
Paul McCartney was reportedly ignored when he began performing Beatles songs on a train in North America recently as passengers thought he was a busker.
The star was travelling with his wife Nancy Shevell in a New Orleans street car when he reportedly "burst into a medley of some of The Beatles' biggest hits". Unfortunately, rather than enjoy a rare opportunity to see McCartney up close and personal, his fellow passengers ignored him.
Read more here and about the "Out There" tour!
LONDON — “David Bowie Is,” a major retrospective of the British singer’s career and cultural influence, which opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum on Saturday, has sold over 42,000 advance tickets, more than double the amount generated by any previous exhibition at the museum.
The exhibition, which displays more than 60 costumes worn by Bowie in performances, as well as photographs, documents, song lyrics, album sleeve artworks, music videos and stage sets, has generated considerable buzz, with rave advance reviews from the British papers. Interest has no doubt been further augmented by the singer’s surprise release last week of a new album, “The Next Day,” which almost immediately went to No. 1 one on the British charts, selling 94,000 copies in less than a week. TBC HERE.
David Bowie today secured his first No 1 album in 20 years – and the accolade of fastest-selling record of the year.
The Next Day, the musician’s 27th studio album, became his first chart-topper since Black Tie White Noise in 1993, having sold 94,000 copies since its release on 8 March.
The news coincided with revelations by the organiser of the London 2012 opening ceremony, Danny Boyle, about the extent of the efforts he made to secure the star for his four-hour extravaganza.
Director Julien Temple's film celebrates Canvey Island's Dr Feelgood, the Essex R 'n' B band that exploded out of the UK in the prog era of the early Seventies, delivering shows and albums that helped pave the way for pub rock and punk.
Temple examines Canvey Island culture as a 'Thames delta' for British rhythm and blues, with a central performance from the Feelgood's guitarist and songwriter Wilko Johnson. A British original, his dynamic stage presence and relationship with lead singer Lee Brilleaux drove the band through their early performances, characterising their three albums between 1975 and 1976, Down by the Jetty, Malpractice and the number one live album, Stupidity.
Wilko left the band in 1977, bassist John B Sparks and drummer The Big Figure both left in 1982, and Lee Brilleaux died in 1994. This is an imaginative, filmic and moving study of the place, times and characters that created the heyday of a seminal British band, and the personal forces that pulled them apart.
Bragg conveys truths about his home country like few other songwriters can.
Mischa Pearlman 2013-03-04
Billy Bragg’s first studio album since 2008’s Mr Love & Justice – and his 13th in total – presents a very laidback, mellow side of the activist and singer. Recorded in South Pasadena, California by producer Joe Henry, these 12 songs, much like his collaborations with Wilco in 1998 and 2000, are infused heavy with Americana and country influences.
While those Mermaid Avenue records consisted of Bragg setting previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics to music, here there’s only one cover – a lilting, gentle take on I Ain’t Got No Home, which was originally popularised by Guthrie himself. A sadly prescient tale of a wandering worker struggling to survive in a rich man’s world, Bragg’s take on the song is appropriately dejected and desolate, and it’s easy to imagine him lost in the vast and dusty deserts of the American southwest. TBC Here.
Yesterday, man-of-many-hats Johnny Marr released his first official solo album The Messenger after years of contributing guitar, production and songwriting duties to bands likeModest Mouse, The Cribs and more. As a founding member of BritPop legends The Smiths, many artists cite his style as an influence, but what does Johnny Marr like to listen to? We asked and he gave us a list of his favorite songs, includingDavid Bowie, Brian Eno and more. Check it out below and add what you like to your playlists!
"People, Hell & Angels is a new album of twelve never before released Jimi Hendrix studio recordings. This special album showcases the legendary guitarist working outside of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience trio. Beginning in 1968, Jimi Hendrix grew restless, eager to develop new material with old friends and new ensembles. Outside the view of a massive audience that had established the Experience as rock’s largest grossing concert act and simultaneously placed two of his albums together in the US Top 10 sales chart, Jimi was busy working behind the scenes to craft his next musical statement. Earth Blues: Totally unlike the version first issued as part of Rainbow Bridge in 1971, this December 19, 1969 master take features just Hendrix, Cox and Miles—stripped down funk at its very origin. Somewhere: This newly discovered gem was recorded in March 1968 and features Buddy Miles on drums and Stephen Stills on bass. Entirely different from any previous version fans have heard. Hear My Train A Comin’: This superb recording was drawn from Jimi’s first ever recording session with Billy Cox & Buddy Miles—the rhythm section with whom he would later record the groundbreaking album Band Of Gypsys.
Recorded over the past two or three years in complete secrecy, and heralded by the sudden appearance in January of the single “Where Are We Now?”, David Bowie’s The Next Day may be the greatest comeback album ever.
It’s certainly rare to hear a comeback effort that not only reflects an artist’s own best work, but stands alongside it in terms of quality, as The Next Day does. The fact that producer Tony Visconti has worked with Bowie since the Seventies undoubtedly helps cement the connection with his earlier work – there are constant frissons of recognition while listening to these songs, as if Bowie is deliberately mining memories. That notion is reinforced by the typically artful cover, which takes the original sleeve for the “Heroes” album and partly obscures its image with a simple sans-serif font title panel and, on the rear, a similarly blunt track listing, making the new album a sort of palimpsest of history.
But if the design and sound suggest a link with the past, the songs – save for “Where Are We Now?” – are all about today, as might be expected from such an astute barometer of societal and cultural mores as Bowie. Visconti has suggested in interviews that some songs, notably the title track, were prompted by the singer’s recent immersion in books about medieval history; but whatever their origins, the songs seem to refract elements of the modern day, offering sometimes brutal commentaries on contemporary events. TBC HERE
"'ere, mate," says Billy Bragg, pointing at the pint of beer that a fan has left on the lip of the stage. "I wouldn't leave that there if I was you. I've got a hell of cold and believe me, if I cough up a load of phlegm into it you'll get fuck all on eBay for it!" It's a miserable late February night in North London and not even the Bard of Barking, or, as his new tour shirt has it, the Sherpa of Heartbreak, is immune from the Panzer division of lurgee that's cutting mercilessly through the capital. But while Bragg himself is suffering its vile effects, his music remains in rude health.
Standing in the Lexington 30 years after the release of his first album, Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy, it's impossible to shake the feeling of not only a sense of déjà-vu but also that things have come full circle for us and Billy Bragg. The country is under attack from the savage austerity measures brought on by the Tory-led coalition as Bragg once more casts his compassionate and humane eye over the devastating effects of right wing politics. Though new album Tooth And Naileschews the more overt political diatribes for which he's best known, the humanity that beats at its heart displays an artist concerned with the positive aspects of human interaction in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. And why not? Because let's face it – if we haven't got we each other than what have we got? TBC Here
Wilko Johnson’s farewell tour is, for once in rock’n’roll, poignantly irrevocable. The pancreatic cancer doctors say will kill him this year has seen to that. With bitter irony, his discussion on Radio 4 of his post-diagnosis sensations of pin-sharp connection to the world finally introduced a general audience to one of British rock’s lost treasures.
Inside the honest club sweatbox where Johnson has aptly chosen to start his last go-round, there’s barely room to move. These fans don’t know him as a spiritually articulate cancer casualty, but the songwriter-guitarist of Canvey Island’s great 1970s r’n’b band Dr. Feelgood. They had a theatrical menace which cleared the way for punk, and in Johnson a bug-eyed guitar gunslinger whose lyrics carved pulp poetry from the landscape and people of his Essex home.
With Blockheads bassist Norman Watt-Roy and drummer Dylan Howe backing him, Johnson is soon tearing into songs from a solo career still awaiting discovery. In “Barbed Wire Blues”, his serrated, stuttering guitar stabs are an art a personal, irreplaceable art. TBC Here