Monthly Archives: January 2009

RIP John Martyn (1948 – 2009)

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPb1OX8bbeY]

RIP British singer-songwriter John Martyn. Over a forty-year career he released twenty studio albums and worked with the best but despite this, he has largely remained a cult figure.

My first exposure to John Martyn was via Gilles Peterson in 2000 on his first Worldwide compilation, which featured his track “Solid Air.”

Q, 1999 voted “Solid Air” as one of the best chill-out albums of all time.

Like I said, I am not really familiar with Martyn’s oeuvre, but still his death was significant to me because based on the comments of the people I know and whose tastes I trust, he was an important musician.

His sound reminds me of Richard Thompson, whom I listened to in my early twenties, and who contributed to Solid Air.

John Martyn also recorded with my hero Lee Perry and is connected to British tastemaker Joe Boyd.

First a bit on the Lee Perry link.

John Martyn as the first white artist to be signed to Island Records. Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island introduced Martyn to Lee Perry. Martyn remembers: “He asked me to come over to Jamaica and relax with him. I went and crashed at his gaff in the Strawberry Hills by Spanish Town. It was cool.”

The One World liner notes report on their collaboration:

“The exact length of time Martyn spent in Jamaica is hazy (“I may have been there for seven weeks; it may have been seven months. I stayed rather longer than my visa extended”), but it introduced him to the cultural hotbed of the Kingston music scene, and one of its most flamboyant characters, producer and writer Rainford Hugh ‘Lee’ Perry aka The Upsetter aka Pipecock Jackson aka Scratch.
“Yes – John Martyn!,” Perry crackled
“Anything he’d request of me would
be OK. John is full of fun, a simple guy;
he’s somebody very special’
“Chris took me down to Scratch’s house, the Black Ark,” Martyn laughs. “Chris had said that Scratch and I were using essentially the same recording techniques and we should meet. I was using rhythm boxes and Echoplex, and my man Scratch was into the same effect, a dub thing, man. It was the echo thing that invented dub for Scratch -and I just came across my version of it by accident. Mine was faster, mine was Bo Diddley. I loved working with Scratch and will do in the future, please God. I love him. There was always a naughty, rosy little twinkle in his eye.”
This meeting led to Martyn recording at the legendary Black Ark studios, hanging out with fabled characters such as Max Romeo and Burning Spear. Martyn appeared on Spear’s Man In The Hills album, as well as on several other sessions of the day. “I did sessions with every motherfucker and nobody told me that I’d done them,” Martyn chortles. “I would hear records later and then all of a sudden a fuzz solo with a touch of phased echo would come and I would think, fuck me, that’s me! It was very cool -I didn’t mind it at all.”

“Big Muff” on Martyn’s One World album was co-written by Perry and Martyn.

On the Joe Boyd link:

Quotes from the liner notes to John Martyn’s Stormbringer!

In January 1969 Martyn met singer Beverley Kutner at a concert supporting US singer Jackson Frank at Chelsea College of Art. Beverley was also a figure on the London folk scene and had been a friend of Paul Simon when the American singer-songwriter had lived in London. After Simon found success with Art Garfunkel, he secured her appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. When she met John she was in the process of working on solo material for producer Joe Boyd’s Witchseason Productions and was looking for musician’s to work with. She later recounted “He was individual, rakish, all curly hair and smiles. He seemed like the ideal guy to help me out, plus of course it helped that I fancied him like mad”. John and Beverley soon became romantically involved and married in 1969. Joe Boyd had secured interest from Warner Brothers records in America in releasing an album by Beverley and it soon became apparent to Boyd that the potential of the husband and wife recording as a duo could be creatively fruitful.
On April 16th 1969, John and Beverley Martyn entered Sound Techniques studio in Chelsea to commit four songs to tape. “Traffic Light Lady”, “I Don’t Know”, “John the Baptist” and “It’s One of Those Days” were all wonderful compositions, revealing that Boyd’s instincts in paring the duo were correct. Suitably encouraged, negotiations with Warner’s were completed and in the early Summer of 1969 he and Beverley travelled to the USA, basing themselves in the musician’s haven of Woodstock in upstate New York. The area was soon to become internationally famous thanks to the celebrated rock festival that took place later that year and also due to Bob Dylan and The Band becoming residents, recording their infamous “basement tapes” sessions there and setting the scene for The Band’s masterpiece “Music from Big Pink” (a big influence on John at that time). John and Beverley soon integrated themselves into the local musical social scene, befriending drummer Levon Helm of The Band and their near weekend neighbour, Jimi Hendrix. John would later recount “Hendrix lived virtually next door to us. He used to arrive every Thursday in a purple helicopter, stay the weekend and would leave on Monday”.

Many of Martyn’s obituaries mention his lifelong addiction to alcohol, drugs and women.

Germaine Greer @70, Leroy Sibbles @60

My fave Greer cover:

Female Eunuch (1970) – Germaine Greer [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Female Eunuch (cover artist unknown)

A newly discovered Sibbles track:

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgWwN3i9Qpw&]

“Express Yourself”

More at:

Germaine Greer (born January 29, 1939) is an Australian-born writer, broadcaster and retired academic, widely regarded as one of the most significant feminist voices of the 20th century. Her name has become synonymous with feministbra burningactivism of the late 1960s.

Leroy Sibbles (born January 29, 1949) is a reggae musician from Jamaica. He was the lead singer for The Heptones in the 1960-70s.

In addition to his work with The Heptones, Sibbles was a session bassist and arranger at Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd‘s Jamaica Recording and Publishing Studio and associated Studio One label during the prolific late 1960s era.

RIP French singer Gérard Blanc

RIP French singer Gérard Blanc

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgbtKg9g1jI]

Can someone ID Gérard in this clip

Gérard Blanc (December 8, 1947January 24, 2009) was a French singer and guitarist, internationally best-known for his work with Martin Circus.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzfZ85ipb_c&]

Disco Circus

Martin Circus is a French rock group formed in 1969. They are best-known for their single “Disco Circus,” released in 1978 in France and licensed by in the US by Prelude Records label, which commissioned additional remixes by New York-based French expat François Kevorkian.

Disco Circus (1978) – Martin Circus

Released as an album and a twelve inch single on the New York Prelude record label, Disco Circus by French outfit Martin Circus which first came to my attention as a favourite of the Detroit techno artists such as Juan Atkins and Derrick May (who listed it as his top 5 record in the late eighties). It is an example of the cross-fertilization of the European and North American disco markets of the late 1970s. Other examples of which are Orlando Riva Sound‘s Moon Boots single which was released on the American imprint Salsoul records

See French disco.

RIP John Updike (1932 – 2009)

John Updike (1932 – 2009) dies. I have never read anything by him. My only memory remotely connected to the physical me is a foreign professor who came to teach us English at the HIVT, where I studied for translator.

He described a scene in one of Updike’s Rabbit novel sequence in which the main character inserts a gold coin into the vagina of his partner, Janice.

I was instantly put off by the scene, although I am not naturally aversed by debauchery.

The whole story was described by this teacher as terribly a middle-class everyman, perhaps best described in Europe as the petit bourgeois who was a fan of the work of Jacques Brel, one who was laughed at by Brel despite (or perhaps, because) being a fan. It is a character I find difficult to indentify with.

For a writer of such fame, it is strange that so few of his works have been adapted for film (see unfilmability), is this due to the aforementioned unfilmability or just that no filmmaker was inspired enough by the stories of Updike?

From IMDb:

  • (6.30) – The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
  • (6.24) – Too Far to Go (1979) (TV)
  • (6.22) – The Roommate (1985) (TV)
  • (5.43) – Rabbit, Run (1970)
  • (5.38) – A & P (1996)
(The films are preceded by their IMDb scores which are a fairly reliable assessment of tastes.)

The Witches of Eastwick is Updike’s most famous work in filmland (it is far too easy for a writer to be famous in bookland, one has to research every artist outside of his own domain to assess future longevity). In 1987, the novel was adapted into a film starring Jack Nicholson as Darryl, Cher as Alexandra, Susan Sarandon as Jane, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Sukie.

I have fond memories of The Witches of Eastwick:

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHVIv-hSg14]

The previous excerpt on the war of the sexes

Jack Nicholson to Cher:

“Scale against size. … You see! Women are in touch with different things. … I see men running around trying to put their dicks into everything … trying to make something happen, but it’s women who are the source. The only power, nature, birth, rebirth … cliché … cliché … but true.”

… even sounds surprisingly Paglia at her most chthonic.

Introducing Iliazd

Espantapajaros - Oliverio Girondo by Iliazd

Espantapajaros – Oliverio Girondo

Jahsonic added this as a favorite on 27 Jan 09.

A Journey Round My Skull added this as a favorite on 26 Jan 09.

AJRMS found this on the incredible flickr photostream of Iliazd.

Iliazd is the compiler of the following photostream[1], in its own words interested in “art, architecture, books and the Kabbalah,” with a special focus on various subdocumented avant-gardes.

Its name is probably inspired by Georgian writer Ilia Zdanevich, who adopted the pseudonym Iliazd in 1919.

Ilia Mikhailovich Zdanevich (April 21, 1894December 25, 1975, Georgian ილია ზდანევიჩი) was a Georgian writer and artist associated with the Dada movement. He was born in Tbilisi, to a Polish father and a Georgian mother. His father was a French teacher, and his mother, V. Gamkrelidze, was a pianist and student of P. Tchaikovsky. In 1919 he adopted the pseudonym Iliazd. Zdanevich’s 1923 poster for his and Tristan Tzara‘s Soirée du coeur à barbe [Evening of the bearded heart] is a widely-known example of avant-garde typography and graphic design. Ilia Zdanevich died in Paris.

RIP Charles H. Schneer 1920-2009

RIP Charles H. Schneer, 88, American film producer

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yYeZMx1Y7U]

skeleton scene in Jason and the Argonauts

Charles H. Schneer (1920 – January 21, 2009) was a film producer most widely known for working with special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen, best-known for producing films such as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts.

The sequence in which seven animated skeletons (see above) rise from the earth and attack Jason and his comrades is widely considered to be among the greatest achievements of motion picture special effects.

Jason and the Argonauts is World Cinema Classic #81.

John Belushi @60

John Belushi, American actor (19491982)

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VstaFz_ZPg&]

A Youtube tribute to Belushi set to the RamonesMy Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)“.

John Belushi would have celebrated his 60th birthday today, had he not died from a drug overdose in 1982, aged only 33.

John Adam Belushi (19491982) was an American comedian, actor and musician, notable for his work on Saturday Night Live, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and The Blues Brothers.

Happy birthday Sonny Chiba

Sonny Chiba, Japanese actor and martial artist celebrates his 70th birthday today.

Sonny Chiba was brought to the attention of mainstream international audiences by Quentin Tarantino. Before that, he was known to the martial arts film crowd for his film The Street Fighter.

I am fascinated by street fights, so were the Rolling Stones and the track “Street Fighting Man[1] is considered by many their most political track. I suppose in a Debordian way.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LYT4JC2dd4]

Opening credits of Karate Kiba

Sonny Chiba is connected to the pseudobiblical passageEzekiel 25:17” by way of Pulp Fiction.

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

Tarantino had borrowed this text from Chiba’s Karate Kiba[2].

As to me, for martial artist I prefer Bruce Lee as I’ve seen him in The Tenant and my Chiba as “Cheeba Cheeba“.