Thursday 25 June 2009

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Le Donk

I attended the press screening for ‘Le Donk’ at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Sunday. It’s the very good Shane Meadows’ new mock-rockumentary (if you will) about a doomed roadie (the titular Donk, played with obvious relish by Paddy Considine) and his hapless charge, real-life Nottingham rapper Scorz-ay-zee, described by Donk at one point as the “Honey Monster with a lobotomy”. The film is a kind of guerilla road movie, shot on the hoof over 5 days and documenting Donk’s attempts to gatecrash the Arctic Monkeys’ 2007 Old Trafford show and get Scorz an opening slot. (The Monkeys feature briefly in a very, um, 'naturalistic' cameo, the scamps).

Now, you might think this has all been done to death – 'Spinal Tap', 'Saxondale', et al – but Meadows has a real humanity about him as a film-maker, and he knows his musical touchstones. Although it’s ultimately a slight piece and some of it’s a little obvious, it's really fucking funny much of the time and the story is told with wit, warmth and brevity. And it packs a surprisingly hefty emotional clout. If the name Chris Needham means anything to you (no? Google it) then you’ll appreciate the kind of bittersweet, desperately delusional territory we’re in here.

I interviewed Meadows and Considine yesterday (about half an hour before this photo was taken, I reckon) and am happy to report they're both fine fellows. Considine, it turns out, is obsessed by Guided By Voices, while Meadows is currently on a nu-folk tip (James Yorkston is on the film soundtrack). Scorz-ay-zee was there, too. He sends himself up in the film, but apparently he was championed by John Peel a few years ago, and three record companies were at the premiere last night to check him out – hope it went well for him. 'Le Donk' will be out on DVD in October, and it’s worth 71 minutes of anyone’s time.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Mr and Mrs Beatles

It was lovely speaking to Olivia Harrison a couple of weeks ago. George was always my favourite Beatle (although I’ve interviewed Paul McCartney a couple of times and he’s always been very nice - once, we chatted on a sofa in the control room of Abbey Road’s Studio 2 and Macca took his shoes off, revealing very sensible black socks. I took this intimate gesture to be a sign of an eternal bond thereafter).

It would have been great to speak with George before he died in 2001. However, his wife Olivia was just as I’d hoped she’d be, and her elegance and manner seemed to confirm the qualities I always hoped George possessed: wit, intelligence, humility, passion, privacy and kindness. I got the sense, even years after his death, of a really proper relationship - with all the ups and downs that entaails - and ultimately a union that was absolutely genuine and enduring.

You can read the interview here, and check out one of George’s greatest songs below. It’s on the new compilation of his songs, Let It Roll, released this week by EMI. Great beard!

Monday 15 June 2009


I had a whole fistful of stuff running in yesterday’s Observer Music Monthly. Firstly, I reviewed the new album by Tinariwen. Called Imidiwan (it translates as Companions), it’s a stunning record, all blood, bone and sinew, not an ounce of fat. Fans of their last, Aman Iman, will not be disappointed.

I also wrote a feature about that much maligned species, the session musician. I talked to six players who between them have performed at the Grammys, Glastonbury, Central Park, the Colosseum and the queen’s jubilee, and who have played on records that, combined, have sold hundreds of millions of copies. And yet I doubt you’ll have heard of any of them. From their bunks in the sweaty engine room of the recording industry they offer some fascinating insights and up-end a few preconceptions.

Finally, there’s a definitive Ten of the most striking (and scary) pop star transformations. Yes, the words 'Michael' and 'Jackson' do appear. Oh, and I also spoke to George Harrison’s widow Olivia, but more on that soon.

Thursday 11 June 2009

The New Sound of Young Scotland

I have a piece in this week’s
New Statesman, celebrating
some of my favourite current
bands – The Phantom Band,
De Rosa, Frightened Rabbit,
My Latest Novel – and
pondering how they're
reflecting, and perhaps shaping,
modern Scotland. You can read it here.

Monday 8 June 2009

Willing To Work

One of the great things about being a shamelessly promiscuous music hack is that you get to write about the varying fortunes of Def Leppard, J.D. Souther and Lady Sovereign in the space of a long weekend and learn thing you never knew: like the fact that Judee Sill wrote the amazing "Jesus is a Cross Maker" (see clip below) about the "fucker" Souther, who broke her heart; or that Joe Elliott is a very funny man who applies what I'll call the 'Kylie Formulation' to his favourite rock bands: so it's Quo, Maiden, Mott and Priest, which is surely how it should be. I heartily approve, and henceforth will be calling Camera Obscura 'Camera' and Talk Talk simply 'Talk'. Works for me.

You also get to review the latest Elvis Costello album, which I’ve warmed to a little but still find oddly unconvincing, with too many songs wearing the wrong suit of clothes.

And you get to talk to Leonard Cohen’s songwriting partner Sharon Robinson in the new issue of The Word (warning: contains possibly fatal levels of Bono) and review some terrific new albums by the likes of The Low Anthem as well as a venerable reissue by the Housemartins, which will make you realise that you are getting OLD.

Depsite the fact the deadline for my next book is less than three months away, there will be much more coming in the next seven days and beyond. Watch this space. But first, watch this: