My Pop Life #182 : Am I Wrong ? – Anderson .Paak ft. ScHoolboy Q

Am I Wrong ?    –   Anderson .Paak  ft. Schoolboy Q

Am I wrong to assume
If she can dance, then she can’t ooh?

I miss those teenage days when you would listen to an album back to back around and around and revel in each listen, purr with delight at each unfolding chord sequence, lie back and indulge in the slowly-becoming sweet familiarity of this new music.  Your new favourite record.  You just couldn’t get enough of it.  Sometimes you needed someone else to convert or share it with, but the experience was personal, deep, profound, special.  Why a record becomes personal and ‘favourited’ is a mysterious thing – it hits your sweet spot and refuses to budge.  First hearing is usually a delight, but it is possible that a favourite will creep up on you.  But once you’ve heard it three or four times, you then wonder if it will wear off – and your true favourites never ever do.  You simply always love it.  Each year I mentally compile my favourites of the year just gone, trying to be ruthlessly honest.  But as I get older, fewer and fewer albums or songs manage to penetrate me in the same way.  Thus is the golden age born.  I love nostalgia but I also love to hear new music, and I always have.  Perhaps growing up with the Top 40 every Sunday makes you ready to hear fresh music every week.  The new stuff would always get an airing for that huge audience, and often we would go out and buy one we liked.   I listen to music and read reviews online these days and seek out new stuff which might appeal to me.  Could be anything, usually is…

Last year, in mid-2016, The Guardian online had some kind of “what’s been good so far” music article with some stuff I’d heard (Skepta, Rihanna, Bowie) and some I hadn’t (Margo Price).  In the below-the-line discussion Cif (Comment Is Free) area, a place I usually avoid due to certain frothing at the mouth trolls and gits, were the usual types whinging about the Guardian or their own favourite band.  Anderson .Paak was mentioned four separate times by people simply saying “listen to this fella”.  It is usually a good indicator of something worth checking out.  Next minute I’m on Youtube listening to this brilliant LP Malibu which came out in February 2016.  I am immediately hooked and buy it on iTunes.  Each time I hear it after that it gets better.  And better.  Eventually I burn it onto a CD and give it to Tony Gerber, Lynn Nottage’s husband and my New York gig buddy and friend.  The people we see the most here, they’re about 20 blocks away in Boerum Hill.

Tony Gerber avec du vin blanc

We’ve seen Young Fathers, FKA Twigs, Kode9, I gave him my Run The Jewels tickets, we went to Stevie Wonder together.  Tony is a documentary director and runs his own company Market Road Films from an office in Gowanus near the canal.  Last year he went to Liberia, Congo, Iraq, Turkey, the UK and Kurdish Iraq making documentary films, mainly for Nat Geo.  He works all over the world often in dangerous spots and always dependent on a local fixer for his and his crew’s safety, interviewing militias in the Eastern Congo or Kurdish fighters about to go into battle with ISIS in Iraq.  Tony enjoys the buzz understandably and he knows what he is doing in terms of film-making.  He’s been all over the world.  Market Road Films has a small but eclectic staff and always has some younger trainees and interns from interesting places.  They throw a mean Halloween Party every year with an open mic for ‘moths’, plenty booze and food and a few intrepid types in fancy dress.  Jenny and I decided to indulge in fancy dress last year.   Sorry no pix.

Tony, Wally and Lynn last summer in their garden

But usually Tony and I meet at his and Lynn’s house, a classic Brooklyn brownstone where her Dad Wally has the ground floor, and Tony & Lynn & their children the three floors above that, with the kitchen right at the top, bedrooms in the middle and living room by the front door which is up the stoop from the sidewalk.  Often when we visit there are other family members, friends, a convivial gathering including writers, film-makers, lawyers, policewomen, producers, United Nations employees, directors and real-estate brokers.  New Yorkers.  And what was very lovely about going round there last year in particular was Tony playing this CD I’d burned for him with regularity – and always pointing out to the assembled throng that I’d introduced him to Anderson .Paak.  Why ?  Because he actually loved it as much as me.  I should point out at this point that Tony and Lynn have two kids – Melkamu who is now 8 yrs old and Ruby who is in her first year at college aged 19.  So Ruby brings music too and now and again we would sit around and listen to this and that – hip hop, Drake, Princess Nokia.  One of the best gigs we went to last year was in the Music Hall in Williamsburg, a couple of miles north of where Jenny and I live.  Tony, Ruby and Ruby’s friend Isabel and I went to see LA producer laptop DJ genius Flying Lotus.  He joyously played Busta Rhymes ‘Gimme Some More’ (My Pop Life #42) in amongst his own songs, none of which broke the three minute mark.  Great gig.   I am currently grooving to his compadre – the bass player Thundercat‘s new album “Drunk” – the best thing of 2017 so far.  They are both part of a new young jazz/hip-hop collective based in Los Angeles which includes Kendrick Lamar on whose masterpiece album To Pimp A Butterfly they both appeared in 2015.

So in a father-daughter kind of dynamic Tony likes to introduce Ruby to new stuff as well, a two way street being better than one.  I reckon!

Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak is also from L.A. but further up the coast.  The countryside.  In fact if you’ve ever been to Los Angeles you’ve probably heard the local radio station KCRW, one of the best in the world, broadcasting out of Santa Monica and other transmitters including KCRU Oxnard Ventura, which gets called on the hour every hour.  Oxnard is an area north of Malibu, rural, coastal, rugged and beautiful and is where Anderson grew up.  His (half-Korean) mother had a strawberry farm there for years until it went bust.  His father disappeared after beating his mother in the street when Anderson (actual name Brandon) was very young.  He worked in a marijuana farm for a while after learning the drums in church and made his musical debut under the excellent name Breezy Lovejoy.  The first Anderson .Paak LP (the dot is a gimmick to attract attention) was Venice in 2014.  In 2015 he appeared on six tracks on Dr Dre‘s album Compton.  In 2016 he released Malibu and another record : Yes Lawd! with collaborator Knxwledge under the collective moniker Nx Worries.  He sings, he raps, he plays the drums, he grooves.  Boy he grooves.  The whole of Malibu is one groove after another, old skool style but fresh as a daisy.  It is an amazing record.  I’ve heard a few interviews with him and he hates the lazy designation ‘Urban Music’.  He is a country boy.   But this is disco funk.  This is soul music.

I waited for another record to beat it last year – a new Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, Solange, A Tribe Called Quest, Frank Ocean.  All excellent.  Beyoncé made her finest to date, Lemonade, which many felt was the album of 2016.  But to quote my own honesty from earlier, it wasn’t the record that I kept playing last year.  The one that I couldn’t get enough of.  The one that never went stale, every play enhancing my love for it.  The one Tony always put on when I went over there.  What a precious feeling.  To be young again !!

Anderson .Paak ‘playing’ on the Ellen show with his band The Free Nationals :

Advertisements

My Pop Life #181 : Skyline Pigeon – Guy Darrell

Skyline Pigeon   –   Guy Darrell

                  Turn me loose from your hands, let me fly to distant lands                              Over green fields trees & mountains, flowers and forest fountains           Home along the lanes of the skyways

Dear old Mum.  This was her favourite song of 1968 and she played it to death for the next few years because  it reminded her of dear Stan, who was with her when she bought it, but who then broke her heart, turning himself loose from her hands and flew back to the distant lands of Australia, flowers and forest fountains, green fields trees and mountains, home along the lanes of the skyways.  I’m absolutely certain that Paul, Andrew (4 years old at the time?) and I all know the words off by heart, and all the notes too.  We played with the lyrics a bit too, misheard some and deliberately misheard some others.  We had to take the curse off of it I suppose.  But we loved it too.  It was played so much it got warped, a 45rpm single on the Pye label, I think.  We didn’t know who Guy Darrell was, and he did nothing else, didn’t need to.  He’d done this song, and in a list of songs which I group together as “Mum’s Sacred Songs“,  I reckon this one is at number one.

Mum’s Sacred Songs then  – I’ve already written about :

 “People Gotta Be Free” – Dionne Warwick  (My Pop Life #17)

  “Days” –  The Kinks  (My Pop Life #147)

 “Games People Play”  –  Joe South    (My Pop Life #63)

and

 “Israelites”  –  Desmond Dekker    (My Pop Life #102)

Do I repeat myself?  A little, yes, but then hey.  I don’t have to think too hard to think of the others, which would be… :

 “Jesamine”   –  The Casuals

  “The Carnival Is Over”  – The Seekers

Part Of My Past”  –  Simon Dupree & The Big Sound

and

Skyline Pigeon”  –  Guy Darrell

I think Paul and Andrew would agree with me on those.  There may be one or two others – bound to be in fact – but these are eight of the top ten.  And now that I look at them I realise with strange unease that aside from The Seekers (an Australian close harmony band led by Judith Durham which mum absolutely loved because she could sing the harmonies) whose hit single The Carnival Is Over was released in 1965 – every single one of these sacred singles comes from 1968 !!! 

So two things are evident here.  One is that they are actually my sacred singles, posing as mum’s.   They are from the year I turned eleven, a mighty year for any boy.  I’d already seen plenty of life – as a witness, at close hand, the eldest, whose testimony this is.  A nervous breakdown suffered by my mum which lasted nine months, babysat by dad and nan, the return of mum, a negotiation with the hospital and the doctor which I was fully aware of somehow, a marital schism, dad leaves and lives in Eastbourne, a divorce, an empty house, a lodger, a love affair, a parting.

       Oh this dark and lonely room projects a shadow dressed in gloom                                         And my eyes are mirrors of the world outside                                                   Thinking of the way that the wind can turn the tide                                                 And these shadows turn from purple into grey

The shadow is actually cast in gloom but I always sang dressed up until – well today really when I discovered that he sings “cast in gloom“.   Who is the Shadow Dressed In Gloom ?  Slightly scary.  But then again.  Clearly myself.  Or Mum if she was singing it.  Whoever sings it is the Shadow.  Turning from purple into grey.  Then we get the soaring chorus which Paul and I sang as 9 and 11-year old boys :

   Projects a skyline pigeon dreaming of the ocean waiting for the day                           When he could Shredded Wheat and fly away again                                             Fly away skyline pigeon fly towards the things you left so very far behind

Shredded Wheat released us from the Shadow Dressed in Gloom turning from Purple to Grey.  And we couldn’t release the scurrilous satirical version lustily in full public view and hearing of Mother because the song, as has been mentioned already, was Sacred.  It was about her broken heart.  Don’t Laugh.  We found it desperately sad of course, but we didn’t really know it at the time.  Consciously.   It didn’t make us cry at least.  Mum would grab a box of tissues.  Now I find it unbearably moving.

Projects a Skyline Pigeon was actually ” For just a Skyline Pigeon

Ocean was “Open

Shredded Wheat was ‘spread his wings‘, of course.  It fit perfectly.

The other song – I’ve just recalled – that was an eggshell song was Freda Payne‘s number one hit single Band Of Gold which I absolutely adored at the newly-sentient age of 13 in 1970 – “Mum, mum, I love this one”  I may have bought it – or did she??  And when I played it one day she snapped – “How do you think it makes me feel ?”  I was like – er – band of gold – wedding ring – divorce – oh yeah !  Sorry Mum !!

I’ve been about that sensitive ever since I reckon.

       Just let me wake up in the morning to the smell of new-mown hay                           To laugh and cry through the night at the brightness of my day                                   I long to hear the pealing bells of distant churches ring                                           But most of all please free me from this breaking echoing

I was never sure about that last line.  I’ll come back to that.  The first three lines of verse two though described our little Sussex village – Stephen Criddle and I used to help the farmer baling at harvest time and we actually would wake up to the smell of new-mown hay,  it’s a good smell.  We did live opposite a farm with all the smells one associates with that countryside feature.    The second line is completely wrong but that’s what I always sang.  Kind of perfectly balanced crying and brightness – I wasn’t always sad, or happy, I was both.  We were a few hundred yards down the lane from the church which stood opposite the vicarage where we were allowed to play croquet now and again.  Tutored in the ways of righteousness.  Stephen and I (or was it David Bristow??) cleaned off loads of gravestones one summer around this time, sat on the grass and scraped off the moss (but a few of the verses, well it got me quite cross…).  Righteous.  But the last line was a bit more Freda Payne in the end – aching metal ring – not breaking echoing.    That was me – once again – personalising the song to mine own experience.  I had trouble going to sleep, saw shapes, heard breaking echoing.  Not every night.  And Shredded Wheat always sorted everything out in the morning with cold milk and a bit of sugar.  And a nice cup of tea.  I like a nice cup of tea in the morning, and a nice cup of tea for my tea.  I could do with a D.  Tetleys Make Tea Bags Make Tea.  Brooke Bond.  PG Tips.  Little picture cards,  traded at school, books with the complete set glued in with Uhu.  Trees Of Britain. Flags.  Butterflies of the World.

Eventually Mum couldn’t stand listening to the song so it stood in the singles rack in its sky blue and white paper sleeve and remained unplayed, long after we all moved out, and Rebecca was born, grew up and moved out, and there it still was, Skyline Pigeon, unplayed and living on in all of our minds as breaking echoing… Perhaps we played it once or twice but I always remember it being a mistake, unless Mum was in a particularly good frame of mind which was Rare.   And so rarely played.  One day I was helping Mum to move from Polegate to a house in Willingdon where she would live on her own after the third and final marriage broke down and a third and final divorce was agreed, amicably and with great dignity on the part of Alan, who’d become Becky’s dad.   Mum didn’t want anything from her past when she moved,  was throwing stuff out with abandon, pictures, books, all kinds of stuff had been lost already in the last hallucination, god knows what had gone into the dustbin so I retrieved some amazing black and white pictures and a handful of 45rpm singles, including this one.  It is warped and full of scratch hiss rasp and breaking echoing.  But I have it.

Pam & Reg, unknown, Bob & Jessie, my dad & Mum standing, his parents sitting 1965? Paul and I may be the two boys at the front…

As the years went by I searched for Guy Darrell.  No news.  One song – I’ve Been Hurt, which was a northern soul hit.  The only copy of Skyline Pigeon I owned for ages was by the fella who wrote it – Elton John, with lyrics and spreaded wings by Bernie Taupin.  It appeared as a strange harpsichord crystalline version on Elton’s first LP which came out the following year 1969.  Nobody bought it of course.  Nobody heard Elton John (knowingly) until 1970 when he released Your Song : “…it’s a little bit funny this feeling inside…“.  Later we all discovered he’d been voicing those Top Of The Pops albums with covers of the top 30, later still I would hear his ‘version’ of Skyline Pigeon, released as a piano solo version on an album of Elton Rarities in 1992, even later I would find him singing it in Rio, just like Guy Darrell did in 1968, the way it should be sung in my humble onion.  He didn’t sing the words right though.   The last line Elton sings “Open up this cage towards the sun“.    It’s pretty good Bernie, pretty good.  But from the age of eleven I always sang

Open up this face towards the sun

Guy Darrell has just had a retrospective released on CD last week which kind of prompted this post but I haven’t received it yet.  So I’ll leave you with a couple of Elton John performances and when the CD arrives I’ll post the track on Youtube, then on here. TTFN.

Elton John live in Edinburgh 1976 :

Elton John live in Rio 2015 :