March 25th, 2015
I just finished reading Ode To Billie Joe by Tara Murtha, a new release in the 33 1/3 series of books. Straying from the template of most other titles in the series, it isn’t devoted to an in-depth analysis of Bobbie Gentry’s debut album but is instead an investigative biography of the reclusive singer who made her last album in 1971 and completely vanished from the public eye in the early 80s.
Murtha has done a lot of digging in archives and spoken to people who worked with her, but with such a big hole at the center of the story — Gentry herself — it has a Rashomon-like quality with people offering conflicting stories and opinions about the singer which only makes her more mysterious by the end. The only thing that seems clear is Gentry was something of a feminist pioneer: writing and producing her own records, and negotiating her own business deals (very successfully), at a time when it was almost unheard of for a woman artist to do so.
It’s a terrific book full of fascinating trivia (I could do without knowing Gentry was a fan of Ayn Rand though) but sadly it can’t answer the really big question: Why did the driven, ambitious, and creative woman capable of writing beautiful songs like this just…quit. As Murtha says in the book, “Only one person knows, and she isn’t talking.”
Download: Courtyard – Bobbie Gentry (mp3)
January 16th, 2015
I will defend to the death the right of dirty old Frenchmen to seduce our nice English girls into faking orgasms on record.
I know we’ve all heard this a million times but I’d never seen the video before and it is — how you say? — très jolie.
Je suis Serge.
January 13th, 2015
I slept through the infamous storm of 1987. I had no idea what had happened until I was woken early in the morning by a phone call from my mum asking me if I was OK. Then I noticed that our electricity had gone out. I still went to work later that day — Spirit of The Blitz and all that, you know.
Poor old Michael Fish, 30 years of forecasting the weather on the BBC — mostly accurately I imagine — and all he gets remembered for now is blowing the call on the biggest storm to hit England in 300 years. It reminds me of that “And you shag one sheep!” joke.
Download: (He’s Our Dear Old) Weatherman – Mark Wirtz (mp3)
This happy paisley number is from the 1960s legendary unfinished Teenage Opera project.
December 19th, 2014
Imagine what Jerry Lee Lewis would have sounded like to a kid living in drab Manchester where this was filmed in the early 60s. Like an alien from another planet probably. No wonder this lot are going bonkers, and no wonder their parents thought rock and roll was dangerous.
Contender for greatest ever live performance on TV?
December 12th, 2014
Sometimes it can take a while to choose a clip for my Friday post. But sometimes I see one that’s so great I immediately know I don’t have to look any further.
This is one of those. Just fantastic.
December 5th, 2014
“Peter Marinello has just been signed to Arsenal for the fantastic fee of £100,000!” Sadly Peter has fallen far from the glamour of giving out prizes to dolly birds on TOTP.
This clip is just great from start to finish. With the goofy charm of Tony Blackburn, the summery pop stylings of Edison Lighthouse, and the groovy dancing dollies during the credits, the TOTP studio looks like the happiest place on earth.
October 27th, 2014
I lived in Florida for 10 years and it all sort of went by in a blur because there is no real changing of the seasons to mark the passing of time there. The climate just goes from really hot to less hot, and the palm trees look the same all year round.
In New England it’s hard not to notice the change of seasons, especially Autumn which announces itself in a colourful explosion of red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. It really is quite spectacular, people here drive out into the country just to see the foliage (we did it last week). The London “countryside” (ie: the parks) can be quite beautiful in the Autumn too, as you can see from the above photo taken from the book Richmond Park Photos.
Here’s another lovely change-of-seasons record. As you can tell, like most English people, when I don’t have anything interesting to say I talk about the weather.
Download: Summer Is Over — Dusty Springfield (mp3)
For the anoraks out there this was the b-side of “Losing You” in 1964 and is now a bonus track on the CD version of A Girl Called Dusty.
October 23rd, 2014
I thought “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” was a surprisingly poetic cover line for a teen magazine, so I looked it up and it is from a poem: “Autumn” by John Keats (though he didn’t write that last bit obviously).
Very sophisticated and cultured of Jackie to be quoting Keats on their front cover which would be unthinkable for a mainstream glossy today. You couldn’t imagine Seventeen having nothing but a line from Phillip Larkin on their cover.
I guess they were trying to be lyrical about the coming of autumn which is a good excuse to dig out this beautiful Bobbie Gentry song (even if it is about Spring).
Download: Seasons Come, Seasons Go — Bobbie Gentry (mp3)