Judy: Still rattling the chandeliers at 80

Judy Collins: Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne (19th January, 2020)

Now this was a strange one. Strange but nice I should point out. The wonderful Judy Collins – 80-years-old and still possessing a voice capable of rattling the chandeliers – acting as her own support act and delivering what was at times close to a stand-up routine.

Of course there was plenty of music too and many classic songs from a career that has spanned 60 wonderful years. But what happened to the advertised support?  Norwegian folk singer Jonas Fjeld – Judy’s collaborator on her latest album, the excellent Winter Stories, was notable by his absence.  The album and indeed Fjeld himself got a couple of honourable mentions in despatches from the stage and two of its numbers, River and Jimmy Webb’s sublime The Highwayman were undoubtedly among the high points of the show. But there was no explanation.

The concert opened with a couple of vintage tracks, Maid of Constant Sorrow and Chelsea Morning, with Judy on guitar accompanied by her longtime musical director Russell Walden on piano. To be honest she took a little while to get into her musical stride but when she did she was extraordinarily good, punctuating the set list, including classics like Both Sides Now, with  anecdotes and some rather whiskery jokes about Keith Richards.

After the interval she was back and wearing a sparkling crimson jacket – an 80th birthday gift from her old friend and fellow sixties survivor Joan Baez. Abandoning the guitar for the piano, she demonstrated a technique that revealed the classical training she received before joining the burgeoning US folk scene of the 1950s. 

Becoming a folkie was a shrewd move that at the time did little to impress either her mother or her piano tutor but ultimately it brought her into contact with everyone from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to Joni Mitchell and Stephen Stills. And do you know what? I think we’ve all benefitted. Certainly audiences at The Tivoli have. Although modest in size the venue has become one of Judy Collins’ favourite UK theatres over the years. It’s a privilege to see her perform there.

Jeremy Miles

Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings forced to battle against disastrous sound mix

Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings: Lighthouse, Poole. Friday 29th November, 2013

This should have been a fantastic show. In fact I’m sure it was. Unfortunately, despite superb musicianship, an eclectic mix of blues and R&B and a whole bunch of other gems, it sounded awful. Struggling from the outset with a decidedly soupy sound, Bill and the band battled gamely on.

Continue reading “Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings forced to battle against disastrous sound mix”

Lou Reed didn’t suffer fools gladly – a bit of a handicap for someone working in the music business

Lou Reed
Lou Reed

One or two of my friends have expressed surprise that I haven’t commented on the sad death of Lou Reed. Clearly I was as influenced by his music as anyone else of my generation. But I wonder, what can I say?

Recalling my distant youth, The Velvet Underground arrived like a bolt to the brain. Dirty, subversive and directly connected to the late sixties counter-culture. It was compelling stuff.

Continue reading “Lou Reed didn’t suffer fools gladly – a bit of a handicap for someone working in the music business”

Happy memories of Troggs at the bottom of my garden – farewell to Reg Presley

So it’s a sad farewell to Reg Presley who has died at the age of 71. He was one of life’s great characters, an inextricable part of popular music history and a presence in my life too. Our family were not only living in Andover when The Troggs rose to fame but the band used to practise at guitarist Chris Britton’s girlfriend’s house which just happened to back onto our garden.

Reg Presley and me. Picture  by Hattie Miles
Reg Presley and me. Picture by Hattie Miles

They also rehearsed in a room over The Copper Kettle tearooms opposite my dad’s office in the High Street. By the time Wild Thing hit the charts we’d heard it played at least a hundred times. It only later occurred to me that had I had the forethought to get a tape-recorder and hang a microphone over the garden fence I might now be in possession of a particularly interesting bootleg.

Continue reading “Happy memories of Troggs at the bottom of my garden – farewell to Reg Presley”

Bob Dylan may play centenary concert for his hard-drinking near-namesake Welsh poet Dylan Thomas

So Bob Dylan is ‘thinking positively’ about playing a centenary gig in honour of his hard-drinking near namesake, the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. And if you don’t believe me check out Hansard. For the matter has already been discussed in the House of Commons.

The young Bob Dylan
The young Bob Dylan

Talking about the concert, which will be part of a series of events being staged in Swansea next year to mark Dylan Thomas’ 100th birthday, local MP Geraint Davies said:  “I have asked Bob Dylan whether he would be prepared to give a centenary concert in Swansea, in order that he could blend his music with Dylan Thomas’s poetry. Sony Music has come back and said that Mr. Dylan is thinking very positively about the idea.”

The honorable member for Swansea West added: “Bob Dylan named himself after Dylan Thomas.” This isn’t strictly true. It is well documented that the singer songwriter, whose real name is Robert Allen Zimmerman, actually named himself after the fictional Dodge City lawman Marshal Matt Dillon,  hero the 1950s radio and TV cowboy drama  Gunsmoke. However it widely believed that he changed the spelling after reading Dylan Thomas’s work.

It’s easy to see why the young Bob would have been impressed by Dylan Thomas’s extraordinary sense of literary rhythm and extravagant use of language. The Welshman  was a larger than life character, writer of groundbreaking poems like Do not go gentle into that good night and radical plays like Under Milk Wood.

He was also a notorious boozer who died in New York after several reckless binge-drinking sessions during a poetry tour. He had lived fast and died young. In that respect he fitted neatly in with other tragic heroes of the era like Hank Williams and James Dean.

Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas

The end came for Dylan Thomas after he returned to the famous Chelsea Hotel very much the worse for wear after a heavy session at the Manhattan drinking hole, The White Horse, proudly claiming “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies. I think that’s the record!”

Unfortunately instead of just sleeping it off he became ill and within two days had been admitted to the emergency ward at St Vincent’s Hospital where he slipped into a coma.  He was diagnosed  as suffering from alcoholic brain damage and  died a few days later on 9 November 1953 – just two weeks after his 39th birthday.

It’s noticeable that Bob Dylan has done markedly better commercially than his Welsh namesake. Despite enjoying considerable fame in his lifetime Dylan Thomas was invariably broke or looking for a loan. He died leaving just £100.

Bob Dylan meanwhile has a multi-million dollar fortune bolstered no doubt by deals with Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret. Remarkable for a man who once wrote:

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you