The sun’s out but the air’s still fresh – and refreshing! Blimey, could it be Spring? Well set up for a day’s work, I’m going in via Wallsend.
The original song is one of the greats, and it has an odd history (see Wikipedia). On this occasion, the protagonists are guitar and voice in a cavernous, empty space. The jaded, smokey voice pulls on soulfulness but entirely avoids histrionics. The guitar unreels purposeful fluent single-note and double-stopped baroque stylings on the original simple chord pattern. The under-pinning bass is heavy and careful, just like the drums. Both will speed up and slow down to lend the appropriate weight and poignancy to proceedings. There’s an organ, too, barely there but somehow effectively wrapping it all together.
All of the great Stax soul elements are in place but entirely re-imagined. The song has been hollowed out and rebuilt from the ground up with a craftsman’s respect for another’s original handiwork. It’s an astounding piece that stops time and moves into a mythical place. (Hmm, think I’ll press replay…)
An early Spring evening, cooling rapidly after a bright blue day. To Grattons Park and around the newly restored Worth Park. Green suburban spaces.
Given the title, ‘Stupid Girl’, you expect punk or garage rock, at least. Sure, the lyrics are casual, even thrown off, but there’s one good pair of lines that deliver an oddly subtle perspective. And then there’s Neil harmonising with himself. But we’re not here for any of that. We’re here for the guitar, it turns out. And for a man of my age, this is it, the business, the veritable d’s bs. Here’s that warbling, overdriven, fluid West Coast lead. There’s that pounding rhythm guitar with more spring than thrash to it. Considerably more. This is exactly what you want to hear from a rock band. And then suddenly it stops (to the obvious slight surprise of the band).
Monument to Tynemouth via Wallsend. Evening, and the smell of freshly-fried fish.
Everything grey under this morning’s weather and the Metro’s vapoured windows – I want to call them portholes – don’t help.
It starts up like some tea-dance that your Grandma might have liked, but how deceptive appearances can be. Off goes Monk, wrong-footing our expectations (and, at times, the bassist’s too). He soon tires of the accompanist’s vamp and topples over into his own thing: wonderment at what a piano offers. He slows and speeds and slithers across and over and then again against the beat, with trickles and chordings that don’t quite replicate what’s in the beginner’s guide.
The band must be his biggest, his first fans – these are all guys who can play. I mean, John Coltrane? None can do Monk’s thing but they all want to be close to him. They protect Monk from the wider world by playing closer to what the latter – what we – expect. This little bodyguard forms a circle round him, within which he is free to do his thing for his own satisfaction. It’s as though Monk were in but not of this world.
Coltrane goes off on one that is a beauty but it’s not how Monk would have taken it. Coltrane’s a master. Monk is simply Monk. He plays the sound of surprise, and is, perhaps, the first to be surprised at what happens between him and this piano.
The piece is ‘Sweet & lovely’. Need I say more?
To the BFI to see a couple of Buster Keaton films with live piano accompaniment. My favourite bit is at 2:12. Manic dancing followed by immediate arrest.
On the way, I wandered into Tate Modern and took a look at the Harry Callahan exhibition.
A slimy grey morning and the damp cold nibbles what shows of my ears (the rest being hidden by headphones). I’m on the way to work, this time via South Gosforth.
If I could dance, I’d dance to this. There’s a peculiar heft and a sway to it that catches me out every time, a little like you’re streaming James Brown but the buffering is slightly off. There’s an electric piano, some funky wah-wah guitar, and several horns (this is the 1970s after all) and if you could just lay back far enough it would probably carry you on its back. Or is it just making me think of a tiny, sweaty nightclub? In spite of the weather, in spite of the onset of work, here I am grinning. If you don’t know this stuff, do catch up.