Laura Barton on the RBP podcast

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In this week’s episode of the Rock’s Backpages podcast, Mark & Barney welcome the wonderful Laura Barton and learn all about her career as a star Guardian writer – and as an author and broadcaster.

Laura talks about her travels in America, and about working with photographer Sarah Lee on the newly-published collection West Of West. The hosts ask her about her pieces on Bon Iver, Daniel Johnston and Riot Grrrl power – and more generally about her deeply personal approach to music writing.

A new Sam Cooke box set prompts a conversation about the pin-up gospel star who crossed over to become an icon of “proto-soul” before his shocking and tragic death in 1964. A 2010 hymn to Sam by the legendary Lenny Kaye provides the platform for ruminations on the man’s sublime voice and his immeasurable influence on everyone from Otis Redding to Rod Stewart.

A clip from the late Andy Gill’s 2005 audio interview with ex-Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell is the catalyst for a discussion of the latter’s collaborations with brooding grunge survivor Mark Lanegan. Having interviewed the Scots singer-songwriter when the duo’s Ballad of the Broken Seas came out in 2006, Laura helps to place the pair in the tradition of such “beauty-and-the-beast” hook-ups as Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra.

Mark talks us through highlights of the week’s additions to the RBP Library, including pieces on the unsavoury Jonathan King, the fabulous Freddie Mercury and David Bowie’s personal tour of his London landmarks. The episode concludes with discussion of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame‘s just-announced Class of 2020 – with specific reference to the covert racism (not to mention misogyny) underpinning reaction to the inclusion of Whitney Houston…

Fave albums 1974-1985

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Johnnie Johnstone of New Perfect Collection asked me and a bunch of other folks to list their 30 best albums released between January 1st, 1974 and December 31st, 1985. As resistant as I am to lists (as blokey and reductive), I couldn’t, well, resist. So here in no particular order are my platters of choice… no doubt fairly bloody obvious, but still as honest as I can be:

Todd Rundgren: Todd

Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey

Joni Mitchell: Court & Spark

Television: Marquee Moon

Talking Heads: ‘77

Associates: Sulk

Gene Clark: No Other

Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti

Earth, Wind & Fire: I Am

Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life

Bob Marley & the Wailers: Natty Dread

Ramones: Leave Home

Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures

David Bowie: Low

Al Green: Al Green is Love

Bobby Womack: Lookin’ for a Love Again

Neil Young: Tonight’s the Night

Chic: Risqué

Kate Bush: The Dreaming

Prince: Dirty Mind

Rickie Lee Jones: Pirates

Tom Waits: Swordfishtrombones

Steely Dan: Gaucho

Dennis Wilson: Pacific Ocean Blue

Fleetwood Mac: Tusk

Randy Newman: Good Old Boys

Suicide: Suicide

Elvis Costello: Get Happy!!

Donald Fagen: The Nightfly

Luther Vandross: Any Love

The great David Toop on the RBP podcast

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IN THIS WEEK’S episode of the Rock’s Backpages podcast, Mark Pringle & I invite writer and fearless musical improviser David Toop to reminisce about his work and his long and fascinating career. David’s new anthology Inflamed Invisible has just been published by Goldsmith’s Press.
Toop talks about the impact of an aunt returning from New York with a stack of rhythm & blues 78s – and how this instilled a lifelong love of African-American music. After he describes his early adventures in free and improvised music, his hosts ask how a man who’s collaborated with Brian Eno and Max Eastley came to profile Bros for The Face – by way of his pioneering 1984 book The Rap Attack, the first serious study of the East Coast hip hop scene. The three men then discuss the cult “disco auteur” Arthur Russell, whom Toop interviewed.
Toop pitches in on the subject of the week’s free feature, cult dubstep star Will “Burial” Bevan, with Barney waxing ecstatic about the man’s noughties albums and subsequent Hyperdub tracks – and Toop making slightly more sceptical noises.
Mark intros the week’s new audio interview, with the late Joe Smith, and we hear a clip of the veteran West Coast executive discussing Joni Mitchell, one of the many artists he worked with at Warner Brothers and Elektra/Asylum. After considering Smith’s role in the rise of acts like the Grateful Dead, Toop confesses to a surprising penchant for Crosby, Stills & Nash, prompting a more general discussion of dismantling musical hierarchies.
Finally, Mark talks us through his highlights among the week’s new library articles, including pieces on the Four Tops (1966), Mott the Hoople, with David Bowie on backing vocals (1972) and the late Luther Vandross (1985) – another artist Toop interviewed for The Face.

A Waits in your ear: Happy birthday, Tom

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Happy 70th birthday to Tom Waits: That’s me in the middle of David Hepworth & Mark Ellen, clutching the paperback of my Waits biog Lowside Of The Road… and about to start the highly enjoyable Word In Your Ear podcast last Monday. Thanks to those major dudes for inviting me… and also for inviting the excellent Alexis Petridis to talk about Elton “Me” John.

Blue is the Colour: the legendary Barbara Charone on the RBP podcast

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In the new episode of the Rock’s Backpages podcast, Mark Pringle (left) and I welcome music scribe turned PR legend Barbara Charone to the RBP “cupboard” (© David Hepworth) and ask her about moving to London from her native Chicago in 1974 – along with her experiences of interviewing the Who, the Stones and other superstars of the ’70s.

“BC” talks about befriending Keith Richards and writing his biography while staying at his Sussex home, Redlands, then reminisces about her move into PR and her decades-long association with such clients as Madonna and Robert Plant. Finally, Mark & Barney ask Barbara how she came to support the team they all three (and Jasper!) adore: Chelsea FC. (Spurs fans may wish to fast-forward at this point.)

The conversation segues seamlessly into a discussion of the week’s fascinating new audio interview, in which John Tobler asks Pete Townshend about his 1993 solo album Psychoderelict – and all about the Who, Tommy and Pete’s childhood traumas.

After semi-skirting around the week’s free feature on Coldplay – an act for whom none of the three can muster much enthusiasm – Mark takes the reins and talks us through his highlights of the week’s new additions to the RBP library – including a report of the 1966 scrapping of seminal TV pop show Ready, Steady, Go!, a review of the opening date of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 tour of America, and a 1977 Rolling Stone interview with the ‘Clean-Up Woman’ woman Betty Wright.

No Other: A poem for Gene Clark

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He is always eight miles high and always low,

and never in between those poles of chemical elation/haunted hurt –

that craggy boy, the Byrd that cannot fly but soars

on gravitas of baritone; that odd one out with tambourine,

the mystic misfit and the bashful stud.

 

Harold Eugene Clark the newest Christy Minstrel,

Missouri balladeer and cuckolder of Papa John.

He is always high and always low,

a seeker after peace, the bard with the Ferrari and guitar,

a handsome dad of handsome boys,

with oceans in the pools of deep-pained eyes

and nervous sober laughter as the bottle beckons and the needle calls.

Thus Harold Eugene Clark heads back to canyons and cocaine

and arms of other blondes.

 

We had to cut him loose, for even Crosby could not help

that tall and sorrowed man,

that lonesome shadowed soul

found splayed upon the kitchen floor.

A half-century of RBP podcasts

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In this week’s episode of the Rock’s Backpages podcast (the 50th, no less), Mark, Barney & Jasper pay tribute to the late Nick Tosches, discussing pieces by him on Captain Beefheart (1981) and his great biographical subject Jerry Lee Lewis (1982).

They then discuss the week’s other free pieces, which concern the annus metallibis that was Motörhead’s 1979 – the year of both Overkill and Bomber. They also lament the passing of original ‘head guitarist Larry Wallis, who last month departed the stage for the final time.

The week’s new audio offering being a 1993 conversation with Long Beach OG Snoop (Doggy) Dogglost trios paranoias hear clips from Steven Daly’s fascinating interview and reminisce about the impact of Dr. Dre’s languid beanpole prodigy.

New library highlights considered by your hosts include Disc‘s Rosalind Russell on Sweet’s Brian Connolly, Glenn O’Brien on the (temporary) shuttering of NYC landmark Max’s Kansas City and Susan Corrigan on her abiding love affair with Madchester. After Jasper samples some Señor Coconut from 2002, the RBP “team” bows out for another week.

P.S. Don’t forget to enter our great giveaway at rocksbackpages.com/giveaway for a chance to win an RBP book or subscription.

A Waits in your ear

Word honchos Mark Ellen & David Hepworth have kindly invited me to talk on their very jolly podcast about Tom in the week of his 70th birthday. So on Monday December 2nd, I’ll be trotting up to north London to wax Waitsian with the two of them… as well as to listen to the evening’s main attraction: chief Guardian pop critic and Elton John’s amanuensis Alexis Petridis. More details hereWaits night.jpg

Joni comes to Cheltenham

Well, not quite. But I’m taking part in a celebration of the life & music of Our Lady Of The Canyon, helping to launch Canongate’s new Mitchell book Morning Glory on the Vine. Also available for signing will be copies of Reckless Daughter, the Rock’s Backpages anthology of Joni interviews and reviews. All part of the Cheltenham Literary Festival next Sunday evening…