The Strange Brew Podcast with Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton

Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton join Jason Barnard to talk about Iain’s memoir Thro’ My Eyes for The Strange Brew Podcast, illustrated by 13 songs drawn from across Iain’s career. Running time 1hr 41 mins. Click play above to listen.

Jason at The Strange Brew has a fine collection of podcasts. You can find them on the website or subscribe to The Strange Brew Podcast on iTunes or your favourite podcast provider.

Click here for more in Iain Matthews memoir Thro’ My Eyes

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New Acquisition | When Quiet Was The New Loud by Tom Clayton

Route is delighted to announced the acquisition of Tom Clayton’s book When Quiet Was The New Loud: Celebrating the Acoustic Airwaves 1998-2003. The book is a playful yet affectionate look at a brief period of British music that the NME called ‘the New Acoustic Movement’ and Alan McGee called ‘music to wet your bed to’. Despite the enormous success of some of its leading lights – Coldplay, Travis, David Gray (his album White Ladder sold 3 million copies in the UK alone, and 7 million worldwide. It is Ireland’s biggest selling album of all-time) – the negative reaction to it was so fierce it not only died a sudden death, it was quickly erased from history. Tom’s book looks at the broader movement beyond the key players; it is a deeply-researched and measured view of an era that although happened relatively recently, is already being purposefully forgotten.

Here are some words from Tom on the book:

“When Quiet Was The New Loud: Celebrating the Acoustic Airwaves 1998-2003 is an affectionate look at a time that’s often skimmed over when we tell the story of British music. The late nineties and early noughties are too often dismissed as the era of ‘bedwetting indie’ – the epilogue to Britpop, or the prologue to ‘new rock’. With this book I’m hoping to prove it was more than just a stopgap. It takes the form of twelve chapters, each focusing on a key album from the time – both the big bestsellers, and the hidden gems. For a lot of people my age, these records played a huge part in our musical upbringings… whether we like to admit it or not! In any case, I hope it prompts some fond memories and some generous relistens. It’s been such fun to revisit the time, and to interview many of the musicians involved. And I’m delighted to be working with Route, a publisher I admire enormously.”

Route editor Ian Daley says, ‘I’m thrilled to be working with Tom. He possesses the perfect combination of a talent for writing and a passion for his subject. With When Quiet Was The New Loud he has found a quirky gateway into the British psyche at the turn of the 21st century.’

Tom Clayton is a music critic whose writing has appeared in The Sunday Times, Drowned in Sound, Louder Than War and The 405, among others. He was the lead researcher and writer for Messing Up the Paintwork: The Wit and Wisdom of Mark E. Smith (Ebury, 2018); When Quiet Was the New Loud is his first original book. He lives and works in east London.

When Quiet Was The New Loud will be published by Route in 2020.

Video above is Kings of Convenience with ‘Toxic Girl’, a song from their album Quiet Is The New Loud.

EXTRACT | Recording Blood on the Tracks – First Takes

To mark the 45th anniversary since the first day of the recording sessions for Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, and the Kindle release of Clinton Heylin’s account of those sessions, No One Else Could Play That Tune, here’s a new extract from Clinton’s book. This is set on 16th September 1974, Dylan has booked himself into the old Columbia studio in New York, the same room where he made all of his early to mid-sixties recordings, and he feels himself into the session with a handful of solo-acoustic performances of the songs in his notebook. Bob’s then partner Ellen Bernstein starts the tale.

Ellen Bernstein: [Dylan] knew these songs. He knew his vision for these songs [which] was very pure and very unadorned, and you don’t need a producer if your vision is that personal on something. I think he had a lot of belief in the integrity of the material.

Perhaps Dylan was already aware of the rep Ramone had started to acquire. According to Blood On The Tracks musician Charlie Brown III, Phil was someone who liked to take ‘a lot of credit for stuff that I don’t think he did. Producing all these people and having his name on it as producer is bullshit, because he didn’t do anything, y’know.’

What Ramone certainly was, though, was a consummate engineer; as good at mastering the nuances of analogue sound as Halee, minus the attitude. And his brief was the same one Dylan shared with his original Columbia producer, John Hammond Snr., the very afternoon they both returned to A & R: ‘I want to lay down a whole bunch of tracks. I don’t want to overdub. I want it easy and natural.’

Ellen recalls how the veteran A&R man ‘had asked to come into the studio that first night since it was historic in so many ways for him and for Bob, [who] was very welcoming … It was a lovely moment.’ Yet Hammond was slightly baffled by Dylan’s choice of recording date, pointing out to his former protégé, ‘This is a strange day to start recording … It is Rosh Hashanah and it is hard to get musicians.’ Looking for his own new beginning, Dylan snapped back, ‘Why not today? It’s the new year, isn’t it?’

Although A & R had a state-of-the-art sixteen-track desk, Dylan made it clear he intended to begin by recording a few songs acoustically, and that four tracks – the number he had used on every Studio A recording in the first half of the sixties – would suffice. Ramone suggested two guitar mikes and a single Sennheiser 421, a popular stage mike at the time, for the vocals:

Phil Ramone: I used the technique at the time … of using two guitar mikes, for reasons of sound and to give him freedom of movement, because he’s not prone to stand in one place without moving around … We had pretty good isolation. You hear his voice in his guitar mike, as you would anyone’s, but leakage is important, and the leakage in the guitar mike was quite good … I didn’t use anything but a dynamic mike on his vocals. It helped with the isolation, too … How do you keep the vocal out of the guitar mike, or vice versa? … The Sennheiser 421 … had an interesting top end, a warmth, if you kept reasonably close to it.

Assistant engineer Glenn Berger recalled, in his studio memoir, scurrying around trying to get the set-up just right, before leading ‘Dylan out to the studio and plac[ing] him in front of the mics. We used old Neumann microphones [sic], the kind he would’ve used in the early sixties. I stood inches from him … [It was] the seventies. It wasn’t the antiseptic spaceship of 2001. It was dirty and falling apart. It was all tubes, no transistors. The board would get hot … We had no idea what he was going to do, so we had to be ready for anything … As I ran around the studio tweaking mic positions, he called off a tune. “Let’s do ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ in G.” He hit his guitar, but instead of a G chord, it was an A. He was playing in a different key from the one he had called off and the lyrics were [to] “If You See Her, Say Hello”.’

The clock read just past four. If Dylan for even a moment thought about starting with ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ – in many ways the album’s trigger – no evidence remains on the studio logs or tapes, even though they were running both a mono reference tape (at either 7½ or 15 ips), plus a regular 30 ips multitrack.

When song one rolls, both reels record Ramone calling out, ‘“If You See Her, Say Hello” take one.’ No mistake. A perfect starter – even though the song was one of the last Dylan wrote for the album. Entirely absent from the two working notebooks Dylan was using prior to his summer visit to the farm – both of which are now housed at the Dylan archive in Tulsa – the lyric appears only in the ‘fair copy’ notebook that remains at the Morgan Library, New York, the seventh (of fifteen) songs therein.

It turns out ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ had mutated from another song Dylan had been working on, only to scrap: ‘There Ain’t Gonna Be Any Next Time’. As his mood changed from autumnal brown to blue, he began to slip in lines like, ‘So kiss her nice and say hello’, ‘Though the emptiness still lingers’, and ‘I respect her … for what she did’. If this soon-discarded paean was a carpe diem to his tardy self, its replacement would find him again ruing past mistakes and wracked with remorse.

On that very first take of ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ – a marathon effort and stellar performance – he is already striving for the voice within and immediately captures the essence of Blood On The Tracks. Five and a half minutes long, it is punctuated by no fewer than four harmonica breaks.

With nary a pause, he goes in search of that voice again, this time reining himself in harmonica-lly, searching for a tonal breath control he can set to remote for the remainder of the sessions. He doesn’t quite find it, but that second take is still ‘pulled’ to one of three master reels at the end of the second session, from which Jeff Rosen evidently accessed this version when compiling 1991’s The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3. Already, Dylan was in the forbidden zone – and Ramone sensed it:

Phil Ramone: This was a serious night … a very quiet, deliberate letting out of the inside of him. Emotionally, he was in a state of revealing his life. And most writers don’t want to tell you they’re writing their autobiography. But it’s there in the atmosphere, as you hear the songs unfolding.

Ramone knew the stakes were high and the learning curve steep. It started with lesson one: ‘Bob doesn’t rehearse. Bob just starts creating [and] these songs start pouring out of him!’

In rapid succession, Dylan proceeds to reel off versions of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ and ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ that take him to the emotional core of a collection he has barely begun recording. This time both second takes have the edge on the first, even if a six-minute take one of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ – with three seesaw bursts of the harmonica around his neck – prompts an impressed Ramone to correctly observe, ‘Great song.’

‘This is a really excellent read. If you’re a Dylan fan it is a must have and, even if you’re not, this is one of the finest pieces of forensic analysis of a major album that you are ever likely to read – which makes it a must have.’ Americana UK.

Clinton Heylin’s No One Else Could Play That Tune takes you up and close and personal in the studio with Bob Dylan during the New York recording sessions for Blood on the Tracks. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the Sony box set release More Blood, More Tracks as you follow the recordings unfolding track by track. It’s available in a limited edition hardback, exclusively from Route, and now also on Kindle.

Click here for more details and to order the limited edition harback.

Kindle Editions: UK | US | CA | FR | DE | NL | ES | IT | AU | JP | MX | IN | BR |

HAVE A BLEEDIN GUESS

HAVE A BLEEDIN GUESS: The Story of Hex Enduction Hour by Paul Hanley

Even if it’s a fool’s errand trying to decide which is the greatest LP out of The Fall’s huge back catalogue of albums, many fanatics of the group will tell you that the worst thing you can say about Hex is that it’s their equal best at the very least. ’ – John Doran, The Quietus

Of all The Fall’s myriad long-players, Hex Enduction Hour remains one of their most highly regarded. Even the circumstances of its recording, purportedly in an abandoned cinema and a cave formed from Icelandic lava, have achieved legendary status among their ever-loyal fanbase.  HAVE A BLEEDIN GUESS tells the full story of the album, including how each song was written, performed and recorded. It also includes new interviews with key players.

Author Paul Hanley, who was one of The Fall’s two drummers when Hex was created, is uniquely placed to discuss the album’s impact, both when it was released and in the ensuing years.

Hanley writes in his introduction to the book: ‘Because of the way The Fall worked in those days, Hex and its contents can’t be discussed in a vacuum […] While what went on during the Iceland and Hitchin sessions will inform much of what follows, documenting the making of Hex Enduction Hour isn’t like discussing Rumours, or even Blood on the Tracks: its recording was part of a process. What’s more, the Fall process often subverted the rehearse-record-tour cycle by skipping the rehearsal bit – it wasn’t unheard of for a song roughed out in a soundcheck to be part of that night’s set. The oldest song on Hex Enduction Hour was first played live as early as August 1980. The group released an LP, a six-track ‘mini-album’ and two singles before it made its way onto vinyl, but it fits Hex Enduction Hour’s atmosphere perfectly. Someone in The Fall knew what they were doing. Hopefully by the end of this you’ll have some idea too.’

It is this continuous working process – from the formation of the band that made the record, through the trip to Iceland, the key switching of record labels from Rough Trade to Kamera and the subsequent recording at The Regal in Hitchin –  that is at the heart of HAVE A BLEEDIN GUESS. Along the way, Hanley’s insider’s perspective busts a few myths that have surrounded the album over the years, as well as bringing fresh insights, not least of which is who is the King Shag Corpse.

The book features new contributions from key players on the album, including Craig Scanlon, Steve Hanley, Marc Riley and Kay Carroll, plus producers Grant Showbiz and Richard Mazda, and Kamera’s Saul Galpern and Chris Youle.

Foreword by Stewart Lee

Paul Hanley was the drummer in The Fall from 1980-85 and now plays with Brix & The Extricated. His debut book Leave The Capital: A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings was nominated for the ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.

HAVE A BLEEDIN GUESS: The Story of Hex Enduction Hour is to be initially published as an exclusive, off-the-grid hardback edition in October 2019. This edition will only be available direct from Route. A trade paperback edition will eventually go on general release, but not before Spring 2020.

CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER YOUR SIGNED HARDBACK COPY AND BE AMONG THE FIRST TO READ IT

Events:
Wednesday 23rd October
Rock N Roll Book Club, Walthamstow Trades Hall.
Paul will be joined by brother Steve. Interviewed by John Doran of The Quietus
Click here for tickets and further details.

Sunday 10th November
Louder Than Words Festival, Principal Hotel, Manchester
Paul will be interview by Daryl Easlea
Click here for tickets and further details.

Ian Clayton on Talk Radio Europe

Ian Clayton the gang at Cambridge Folk Festival

[Click play above to listen to Ian Clayton and Gerard Sweeney on Talk Radio Europe]

A note from Ian:

‘I was asked to appear on Talk Radio Europe. It’s a station based in Spain for ex-pats and English speaking natives. A charming Irish DJ called Gerard Sweeney wanted to interview me about the new edition of my music book, Bringing it All Back Home. I never know what to expect with these radio interviews. The people doing the interview, while well-meaning, are often ill-prepared and you don’t usually get long enough to express much apart from the usual blurb. Only rarely do you get the chance to talk about things close to you. This one was different, it turned out that Gerard was a kindly, considerate chap who wanted to genuinely listen. He also got involved and we ended up not just as interviewer and interviewee, but two blokes swapping stories. I like it when that happens. I had prepared for five minutes tops, we ended up chatting for twenty minutes. The new updated Bringing it all Back Home came out yesterday. I’m thrilled with it and the whole new section at the end has lifted the book up for me.’

Click here for more on Bringing It All Back Home

Funky Si On Location | You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide

Funky Si Wolstencroft has been filming a series of vignettes at the sites featured in his memoir You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide. Taking in locations in London, New York, Leeds, Coventry, Wales, and of course Greater Manchester. Click play above to watch them in one continuous stream.

Click here for more on the book

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Click here for the You Can Drum But Can’t Hide website

 

Bob Dylan’s Picnic at Blackbushe | A Story By Ian Clayton

Ian Clayton reads an extract from his best-selling music memoir Bringing It All Back Home about the time he went to see Bob Dylan at Blackbushe in 1978.

‘One of the best books about popular music ever written.’ – Record Collector

‘A music-powered helter-skelter of living and learning, as perceptive as a Bob Dylan lyric and as earthy as a Bessie Smith blues.’ -Val Wilmer

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Click here for more on Bringing It All Back Home