Thursday 22 October 2009

Hallowed Spaceboy

“Aged 22 in 1969, the erstwhile David Jones had already bolted through several undistinguished incarnations - quiffed R'n'B band leader, king mod, hippie, sub-Anthony Newley vaudevillian, mime artist - before landing somewhere between Bolan and Bob Dylan, yet another London art-school boy with crazy hair, a 12-string guitar and a penchant for forming "Arts Laboratories" in the function rooms of Beckenham pubs”.

Among the many treats in this week’s New Statesman is my essay celebrating 40 years of David Bowie “as the shape-shifting, gender-hopping, zeitgeist-jumping pop star in excelsis.” You can read it here.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Anne Briggs at 65

My book editor and I were recently bandying around ideas for fantasy projects and we both agreed that, one day, it would be great to write a book about Anne Briggs. But who would buy it? Some hipster-folksters regard Briggs in much the same way that excitable pop-culturists see Madonna, but back in the real world she's hardly what you'd call a unit-shifter. No matter. For those of us who have been enchanted by her music over the years, her impact can't be measured in pounds, pence and Amazon sales ranks.

I had the great - and very rare - pleasure of interviewing her a couple of years ago. She was very nervous, and lovely, and rather confused as to what all the fuss was about. Anyway, she turned 65 a few weeks ago, so in celebration of her extraordinary voice, and for having the guts to live her life according to her own instincts, and in the vain hope that we might yet get some new music from her, I thought it might interest a few devotees to unearth the interview feature, which first appeared in Record Collector.

* * *
Anne Briggs’s journey into the annals of folk legend began with a hitch-hike to Edinburgh at the age of 15 and ended, 14 years later, with a retreat into nowhere. In the intervening years she established herself as not only perhaps the purest folk voice of her generation, but also as an elusive figure, uncomfortable operating within the confines of stage and studio. Briggs never truly lost her inhibitions in formal situations, hence perhaps why her recorded legacy is so slim: a handful of songs scattered across EPs and compilation albums, one album for Topic and two more for CBS. She has been silent since 1973. Read More

Friday 16 October 2009

The Week That Was

An interesting week: conversations with Sufjan Stevens (we last met in 2006, sitting on the grass in McCarren Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; he was sweet and pretended to remember), Charlie Watts and Alison Goldfrapp, covering topics as diverse as soul singers turned elevator attendants, sharing a tailor with Sonny Rollins, and writing non-Beatlesy music for a film about the young John Lennon. All will be revealed in good time. Meanwhile, if you can stand more Eitzel, my interview with the man himself is in today's Herald. Here's a peek:

"I feel sometimes at my most tortured – it’s a default setting and it’s a little phoney,” he says. “I have a broad range of things I could say, so I decided about four years ago that I was no longer going to be a negative person and I wasn’t going to ­surround myself with negative people. It’s a battle. I’m incredibly self-destructive – well, no, there are more self-destructive people, Lord knows – but I don’t want to be that person, or to be ­perceived as that person, any more. I’ve changed a lot.”

Friday 9 October 2009

Lilac Love

“His songs are sweet and green with a hint of pepper, like a mouthful of fresh rocket, and fall somewhere between a more bucolic Ian Broudie, a less abrasive Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Drake with the curtains open. The English Blues, in other words.”

The new Word is out, with, errr, Flaming Lips on the cover. Inside, I review the beautiful anthology of the music of Stephen Duffy, Memory & Desire - 30 Years In The Wilderness, which you should buy NOW.
Also, relatively kind words on new albums by Mountain Goats and Seasick Steve.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

An Audience With The Human Riff

I stumbled the other day on a transcript of my 2005 interview with Keith Richards and really enjoyed reading back over it. At the time, it put an end to a preposterously convoluted affair. The interview took about six months to set up and I had to jump through various random and arbitrary legal hoops to get it done, but it eventually happened around 4 am GMT (what I now know as Keef Time) in early November 2005, as I was in the final throes of finishing my book 'Willie Nelson: The Outlaw' .

Keith's thoughts formed the Introduction to that book, and he was such a gent, so insightful and genuine, so funny, so musical, I thought our late night chat was worth sharing in its entirety.

GT: Hello Keith. How are you?
KR: What are you doing up this time of night, old boy?
GT: I’m writing my book on Willie Nelson
KR: Yeah, that does take a lot of midnight oil!
GT: Yeah, it takes a long time. What are you up to?
KR: I just got into Portland out of Seattle.. on the road, you know.
GT: How’s it all going?
KR: Yeah, going very well, man. I mean, brilliantly. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Read on here

Sunday 4 October 2009


"I have a dream. It's that one day a glorious new dawn breaks and musicians of all races, creeds and colours will unite in the realisation that making an album of "freak-out rock jams" is, generally, not a terribly good idea. Those musicians, however, are not Oklahoma's lovable odd-bods Flaming Lips and that album is emphatically not Embryonic."

Read my review of the new Flaming Lips' opus in today's Observer Music Monthly. And, for pudding, this trifle.