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Davey Graham 1940 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, December 16, 2008 05:51pm | Post a Comment

The legendary English guitarist and a major influence on practically every fingerstyle acoustic guitarist for the past 50 years, Davey Graham, passed away on Monday of lung cancer which was detected only a few weeks ago. He was 68.

Born November 22nd, 1940 in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England, he took up the guitar at the age of 12. By the age of 19 Graham composed what would probably be his most famous piece, “Anji,” released on his debut 1962 EP, 3/4 AD, and later covered by the likes of Pentangle and Simon & Garfunkel.

Here in the United States, Graham perhaps wasn’t as well known as some of his contemporaries but he has been credited with single-handedly inventing the concept of the folk guitar instrumental in the U.K.-- simultaneous honors in the U.S would go to John Fahey, who was making similar innovations. Graham influenced a who’s who of British guitarists from Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Martin Carthy, and Jimmy Page -- Page’s instrumental "White Summer" was heavily based on Graham's "She Moved Thru the Bazaar/Blue Raga."

In 1959 Graham first made headlines with his attention grabbing performance of “Cry Me a River’ in the BBC television documentary Hound Dogs and Bach Addicts: The Guitar Craze, produced by Ken Russell. During the 1960s he played a major role in the British folk revival, releasing a series of eclectic solo albums that touched on a wide range of music, from jazz and blues to Indian and Arabic and gypsy. He introduced to many an aspiring young guitarist the DADGAD guitar tuning, whose chief appeal is the ability to improvise freely, yet maintain a solid underlying rhythm and harmony. But Graham's career was somewhat unpredictable; his concerts were often hit or miss. Much of his reputation was based on a couple of brilliant albums, both released in the same week of 1965, Folk Routes, New Routes in a duet with the folk singer Shirley Collins and Folk, Blues and Beyond, a mostly instrumental album that combined all his world music styles. His live playing was best captured and recorded in 1967 on an incredible album entitled After Hours, which was recorded in a student's dorm room on the campus of Hull University in front of an audience of about eight people. Nonetheless, and in many ways, even as impulsive as he may have been, Davey Graham was the first guitar hero … and certainly one of mine.

There will be a private funeral held for Davey Graham later this week. A public memorial service is being planned for January.


(Wherein winter records receive writings.)

Posted by Job O Brother, December 16, 2008 11:32am | Post a Comment
postcard

It’s finally chilly in Hollywood. I mean, I still have my French windows open wide, but it’s about as cold as it ever gets, with breezes blowing from my hometown in the north, Nevada City, where loved ones are covered in white blankets of snow. (That’s a metaphor – probably very few of them have bed-sheets constructed of crystalline water ice.)

My friends in Nevada City, Jaime, Alison and Dan made a snowman. I don’t get that pleasure here. I suppose I could make a clumps-of-dying-grass-cigarette-butts-and-dog-feces man, but who has that kind of time? I have a blog to write!

sexy
Here's a picture of the snowman my friends made.
The best part will be watching him slowly melt over the next couple weeks.

My choices in music are always influenced by weather. When it’s hot city in the summertime, I’ll gravitate towards artists such as Stephen Malkmus, Thin Lizzy, or Sly & The Family Stone. If it’s a rainy day, you can bet some Siouxsie & The Banshees will be trilling from my stereo. I look out the window and see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trampling the Hills with all the fury of Heaven and Hell as they take the stage for a final battle in which every human soul will come to greet its eternal home in either the awesome glory of the Almighty God or the foul depths of Hell as lorded over by the king of wickedness, Satan, and more often than not I’ll play a little Burt Bacharach. Because it’s always a good time for a little Burt.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus - 39 years ago today

Posted by Whitmore, October 5, 2008 08:38pm | Post a Comment


39 years ago today
, light ceased radiating; the World stopped spinning, coughed up a hairball, then turned on its side and attempted to shake loose all the other furry dust berries clinging to its nipple-ly peaks. Fearful of this new creepy darkness, the World tried to catch the tail of a passing comet only to stagger badly and get singed by the fiery interloper.

But seconds before collapsing gloomily into one last catatonic stupor, the World accidentally stepped on the remote control, triggering a channel change and so discovered that there was in fact something worthwhile to watch on television.

October 5th 1969, Monty Python’s Flying Circus was unleashed onto the airwaves of the BBC … six rather handsome young gents (Terry Jones and Michael Palin from Oxford, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman from Cambridge and American born Terry Gilliam from a little school in Los Angeles called Occidental College) changed history itself by saving the World, and us, from sheer utter boredom.

Privilege

Posted by Whitmore, July 28, 2008 11:06pm | Post a Comment


I’ve often said coincidence does not exist, but I'll save that diatribe for another time. However, a couple of days ago, and for the first time, not one but two Paul Jones 45’s -- he’s the former lead singer for the 1960’s British invasion band Manfred Mann -- wandered into Amoeba from separate collections. Both of these singles are from the same soundtrack, Privilege, a film released in 1967 starring Paul Jones, who was making his big screen acting debut. Now, two days later, I find out that for the first time ever, Privilege will be released on DVD today. Coincidence or plot? I just don't know. Well, anyway...

The film was directed by Peter Watkins, whose highly controversial anti-nuclear drama The War Game won the 1966 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (and was soon to be banned in Great Britain). Watkins once again doesn’t stray far from controversy in Privilege. Taking place in a totalitarian English State of the near future, specifically 1970, the dark comic vision of Privilege criticizes the media and its media manipulation, corporate culture and its corporate manipulation. It portrays a time where most everything seems to bounce off the absurd and neurotic teen pop-dom dominating the age and the happily tranquilized population is content with fluffy distractions. The main character, Steven Shorter, played by Paul Jones, is a rock god. His popularity and career have been meticulously engineered by a vast music corporation, reaching dizzying Beatlesque heights. But all this begins to crack when an artist, played by the original supermodel Jean Shrimpton, is hired to paint Steven Shorter’s portrait, and finds an unstable, empty shell of a man, lost in a lonely world, a puppet trapped by the demands of a music business out of control, and a simple singer victimized by all the excess, process, and success. Of course, the artist tries to rescue and prop up Steven Shorter before he becomes yet another statistic in the eternally doomed scenario of recyclable pop stars. But as can only happen in real life and/or rock melodramas, fortunes take a Machiavellian twist when rebellion is only a pop song away. Now that’s entertainment!

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Nick Drake, happy birthday ...

Posted by Whitmore, June 19, 2008 09:58am | Post a Comment


60 year ago today Nicholas Rodney Drake, enigmatic British folk musician, was born. Today he lives only in myth, legend and allegory. Drake, who released three albums in his lifetime, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter, and Pink Moon  failed to find a wide audience thirty odd years ago, but since his death in 1974 has found a continuing growth in popularity and influence.

Nick Drake was twenty years old when he signed to Island Records, releasing his debut album Five Leaves Left in 1969. Over the next few years he recorded only two other albums, though none sold more than five thousand copies in their initial releases. His reluctance to perform live or be interviewed no doubt contributed to his lack of commercial success.

Throughout his life Drake constantly battled depression. After the completion of his final album, 1972's Pink Moon, he ceased performing and recording, and chose to withdraw from society to his parents' home in rural Warwickshire. Drake died from an overdose of the prescribed antidepressant, amitriptyline, on November 25th 1974.

There was no public announcement or notice of his death. Initially there was no effort to even reissue his three albums, but in 1979 the box set Fruit Tree, compiling his three completed albums plus a handful of home recordings and left over sessions, was released. However, once again, sales were poor, the album received little notice from the press, and by 1983 Fruit Tree was deleted from the Island Records catalogue. Still, a fanatical following and interest never ceased. Musicians such as Robert Smith, Peter Buck, Kate Bush, and John Martyn cited him as an influence. In early 1999, BBC2 aired a documentary, A Stranger Among Us—In Search of Nick Drake. And most notably in 2000, Volkswagen featured the song Pink Moon in a television commercial, and within one month Drake had sold more records than he had in the previous thirty years.

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